London Underground cleaners disrupted October’s Mayoral Question Time in a protest about their pay and working conditions, claiming they are treated “like slaves”.
(Video: Martin Steers)
The protest organised by the RMT union outside of City Hall on Thursday aimed to raise awareness of a number of key issues, such as sick and holiday pay. This comes after ABM UK won the TfL cleaning contract this summer. This would mean cleaners wouldn’t work directly for TfL but for ABM UK, as agency or freelance staff.
“We need a decent wage, we need sick pay urgently”, proclaimed Richard Crane, an underground worker and RMT activist: “We are being treated like slaves basically”. The RMT are campaigning for cleaning to be brought back in house by TfL, for cleaners to be issued with travel passes, sick pay, holiday pay and for them to be paid a minimum of £10 per hour. The RMT have stated that a lot of contracted staff are pressured into registering as ‘self-employed’ or their own limited companies to avoid receiving their statutory rights.
TfL responded that the new contract sees a commitment from ABM UK to reduce the number of agency staff from over a third to almost 5 per cent. David Wylie, Chief Procurement Officer at TfL, stated: “It is a significant improvement for cleaners across the TfL estate as it guarantees that 2,800 people will receive the London Living Wage”, he also said: “All station cleaning staff are provided with contractor travel passes when they are required to travel between stations during their duties.” In addition TfL are encouraging staff to report to them any attempt to pressure them into registering as self-employed.
The London living wage is currently £9.75 per hour, covering all boroughs in Greater London, whereas the rate for outside of London is currently £8.45 per hour. This London rate was announced last October with the Mayor’s full backing and support to get more employers in London to pay the rate.
Thursdays protest was also attended by John Leach, RMT’s Regional Organiser for London Transport, the RMT’s General Secretary Mick Cash and dozens of cleaners and RMT activists. The protest caused some disruption at the start of the Mayor’s Question Time. The noise of the demonstration could be heard in the Assembly Chamber with the Chair Jennette Arnold OBE encouraging the Mayor and Assembly members to raise their voices “there is nothing we can do about that, all we can do is get above it.”
We reached out to ABM UK for comment on the protest and the issues raised and a spokesperson for the company reiterated the stance and position of TfL.