5 May 2020
RMT Press Office:
RMT calls on London Mayor Sadiq Khan to meet delegation of “amazing” tube cleaners as new survey shows majority of cleaners believe their employer is putting profit before safety during coronavirus crisis
TUBE UNION RMT has today called on London Mayor Sadiq Khan to personally meet, via video conferencing, a delegation of tube cleaners to discuss their employment concerns as a new survey shows a majority of cleaners believe their employer, cleaning contractor ABM, is putting profit before safety during coronavirus crisis.
Despite playing a vital frontline role in the fight against Coronavirus, outsourced cleaners are furious that they are being treated as second class citizens by being denied staff travel cards which allow travel across the TfL network, despite other tube workers receiving this benefit. Cleaners who have been furloughed are also only receiving 80% of their pay whilst other Tube staff are receiving 100%.
In its letter, the union points to what it calls the ‘double-speak’ being employed around cleaners.
Responding to a question in the London Assembly last week, the Mayor said:
“Given the current challenges of Covid-19, the work of ABM’s staff on London Underground has never been more important. They are doing an amazing job in these extraordinarily difficult times and I thank each and every one of them for their commitment and service to our city”, but RMT pointed to the contrast between this praise and the treatment of cleaners on the ground.
In addition to refusing to give the cleaners staff travel cards, TfL refers to them as ‘non-core’ and has outsourced them to a US company called ABM. The union revealed that in a recent survey, more than 50% of Underground cleaners said they believed the company put profits before safety.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said,
“The hypocrisy towards tube cleaners is breath-taking. On the one hand they are told by the Mayor and others they are doing a amazing job and they’re vital to the fight against coronavirus, then in the same breath they’re told you can’t have all the same basic conditions of employment as other tube staff, not even free tube travel.
“Grand public statements are worthless unless there’s a change in the way these cleaners are treated. I know Sadiq Khan gets this because he had himself photographed with Underground cleaners employed by ABM as part of TfL’s response to the Coronavirus.
“I’ve written to him today calling on him to reverse this shameful decision not to give cleaners free travel and arrange a meeting with our cleaning members so he can hear from them directly.”
Notes for editors
<letter from RMT to Sadiq Khan>
I’m writing to call on you to take immediate action to reverse TfL’s disgraceful decision to deny free travel to London Underground’s cleaners.
We put in this request because, as you know, the people who clean the Underground struggle with the cost of living in London and because this is a concession that is open to other London Underground cleaners to help them with these costs. As I’ve written to you before, two thirds of these cleaners already reported struggling to make ends meet, even before the Covid-19 crisis.
The letter my union received from TfL states that ‘we are determined in our decision-making to ensure that we are not adding cost to our business or losing further revenue, which would be the consequence of providing free travel to groups who do not currently have this concession.’
I know that you are fully aware of the importance of the work these cleaners do, which is why you were photographed with them when TfL announced its ‘enhanced cleaning regime’. They are a vital and integral part of the frontline response to coronavirus in London.
As you said yourself last week, “Given the current challenges of Covid-19, the work of ABM’s staff on London Underground has never been more important. They are doing an amazing job in these extraordinarily difficult times and I thank each and every one of them for their commitment and service to our city”.
This is why I’m absolutely staggered at the decision TfL have made on your watch. These cleaners are literally putting their lives on the line every time they go to work. Yet their treatment is a stain on TfL.
They have been outsourced to a US company called ABM and this decision has been justified, repeatedly, by correspondence that clearly calls them ‘non-core’ to TfL’s business; 68% reported to us that they struggle to get by on what they earn, they have inferior sick pay and pension provision and they do not get the same travel facilities as other TfL or London Underground workers. They have little confidence that their employer is putting safety first. In survey of our members published just last week, London Underground’s cleaners, more than 50% of respondents said that they believed ABM put business priorities and/or profit before safety when considering its approach to coronavirus. Only 17% agreed that safety was the company’s priority;
Everyone is keen to be seen to thank keyworkers, including cleaners, in public at the moment, from the Prime Minister to the Leader of the Opposition. Praising our members for the ‘amazing job they’re doing’ is meaningless and insulting in the context of actions that show exactly the opposite. TfL had a chance to make the right choice and show that it values its cleaners and instead it took a conscious decision to prioritise collecting revenue from its own low paid workers who are putting their lives on the line to keep the Underground clean and safe.
I believe that TfL is way out of step with public opinion here and the more people know about this scandalous treatment the more anger there will be.
I’m calling on you to make your words and actions mean something by personally intervening today to reverse this decision. Furthermore I would like you to meet a delegation of cleaners, virtually as required, so that you can hear from them yourself.
But whatever, you should be in no doubt, RMT will fight all the way to expose the shameful treatment of these cleaners and make sure that they win the respect and working conditions they deserve.
RMT General Secretary