16 March 2020
RMT Press Office
RMT calls on Transport for London to come clean about coronavirus as correspondence reveals bosses view Tube cleaning as a “non core” activity
TUBE UNION RMT today called on Transport for London to urgently clarify its approach to cleaning the Tube during the coronavirus pandemic after correspondence emerged showing that keeping the Tube clean should not be viewed as an essential or “core” issue for Transport for London. It has also been revealed that, despite the coronavirus, Tube bosses have no direct day-to-day control over cleaning the London Underground.
On Tuesday, a TfL press release announced that it was unveiling an ‘enhanced cleaning regime’ to ‘improve the already-high hygiene levels on the capital's public transport’. ‘TfL has chosen to make a number of improvements to its well-established cleaning programme, which already sees its trains, stations and buses professionally cleaned daily’.
Yet correspondence from outgoing Transport Commissioner Mike Brown to the RMT uses corporate language to say “cleaning is not a core business for us”. Non-core items are considered to be peripheral or incidental activities, while core items are considered central to operations.
RMT can also reveal that TfL’s contract with the cleaning outsourcing company ABM leaves it up to the company, not TfL, to decide how many cleaners are employed and how often they clean the Tube. This means that unlike New York, where cleaning is publicly owned, Tube bosses have no direct control over their cleaning regime response to the Coronavirus.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“Only recently we saw media images of the Mayor with London Tube cleaners but now find that his own Transport supremo views cleaning as a none core business activity rather than essential to protecting our public health. Equally worrying is that the decision taken three years ago to outsource tube cleaning means that tube bosses have no direct day to day control over the frequency of cleaning .
Lets be clear keeping the tube trains clean and safe should be just as important as keeping tube trains running especially with the threat of coronavirus. The Mayor should follow the example of New York and take cleaning under direct public control alongside the rest of London Underground’s day to day activity.”
Notes for editors
The contract signed with ABM in August 2017 states that ‘This is an output performance based contract which defines standards and not methods of cleaning with the resource provided and the frequency of cleaning determined by the Supplier to meet these standards.”
“What Is a Non-Core Item?
A non-core item is an engagement considered to be outside of business activities or operations that are the main revenue source of the business. Non-core items are considered to be peripheral or incidental activities, while core items are considered central to operations. Often, businesses will outsource non-core items to firms that specialize in these activities. This is especially true for smaller firms.”
Extract from Letter from Mike Brown to Mick Cash, 8 February 2020.