MEMBERS of the RMT rail union and the Unite union’s Justice for Cleaners campaign staged a protest in central London on Wednesday, demanding: ‘Stop Cowboy Cleaning Contractors – Make London Underground cleaning part of a public London Underground!’
Urging support for their struggle, the RMT said: ‘Private company Initial has been awarded the cleaning contract on three London Underground lines.
‘But Initial are going to subcontract to ICS. Multiple subcontracting means insecurity, loss of rights, and threats to jobs, pay and conditions.
‘London Underground cleaners, most of whom are migrant and ethnic minority workers, are already among the most exploited workers in London.
‘Now they face being passed from one employer to another in a sick game of bosses’ pass-the-parcel.
‘Join cleaners and their union, RMT, in protesting at the offices of Metronet (now part of London Underground).’
The struggle of the cleaners is part of an impending struggle involving all bus and tube workers against planned cuts of £5 billion over the next eight years.
In a ‘Message to all Tube Cleaners’, the Unite Justice for Cleaners campaign said: ‘The cleaning companies are renegotiating the contracts.
‘We want to let you know that “Justice for Cleaners’’ will never tolerate companies who refuse to pay the London Living Wage for cleaners in London. . .
‘Where we have won increases and the London Living Wage, we will ensure that whoever wins the contract will continue to pay and recognise your union and that your job is safe – the TUPE law requires it, we will enforce it.’
But demonstrators warned that trade union rights and pay and conditions were under threat if contracts were not brought back in-house.
Cleaning and engineering maintenance on London Underground was divided between two consortiums, Metronet and Tube Lines, by the government.
These two private consortiums sub-contracted cleaning work to private cleaning companies.
Tube Lines cleaners are still not getting the London Living Wage, said the RMT.
Yet Tory Mayor of London Johnson had given a pledge to all Transport for London (TfL) workers that they would get it.
‘Boris, honour your promise!’ the demonstrators shouted, as well as other slogans including: ‘Public service not private profit!’, ‘Metronet – stop the cowboy contracting!’, ‘What do we want? Justice! – When do we want it? Now!’ and ‘Metronet – stop the union busting!’, ‘Metronet – respect the workers!’
RMT leaders on London Underground said the BCV cleaning contract (Bakerloo, Central and Victoria lines) was worth £35 million a year.
They said that bosses planned to transfer the Metronet cleaning contracts from current contractor ISS to Initial, who in turn would sub-contract to ICS, from next April.
‘At ISS we now have negotiating rights, whereas with Initial and ICS we have no negotiating rights,’ they said.
‘Initial does not have experience with cleaning depots, so they will have to give the contract to ICS.
‘Our question is why give the contract to Initial in the first place?
‘We want cleaning brought back in house.’
Several leaders of the RMT and Justice for Cleaners addressed the lunchtime protest outside Templar House, High Holborn.
Clara Osagiede, RMT cleaners secretary on London Underground, said: ‘We’re tired and sick of being treated as parcels.
‘We’re not parcels to be passed around.
‘We say no to cowboy cleaning contracts.
‘We are sick and tired of the cowboy cleaning contracting that goes on on the London Underground.’
Steve Hedley, RMT London Transport Regional Organiser, said: ‘Metronet was the flagship of John Prescott’s Public Private Partnership.
‘Metronet sub-contracted parcels of work to their parent companies like Balfour Beatty and amassed a massive debt of £500 million.
‘The government bailed them out with taxpayers’ money and brought them back into public ownership.
‘They are picking on what they see as the easiest targets,’ he warned.
‘They are passing the cleaning grades to a non-union organisation.’
Speaking about the other PPP partner, Tube Lines, he said the government was ‘too embarrassed to let Tube Lines go belly-up before the next general election.’
He said: ‘Transport for London have brought all cleaning grades on London Overground back in house.
‘If it’s good enough for London Overground, then it’s good enough for our cleaners on Tube Lines, London Underground and Metronet.’
John Reid told Wednesday’s protest that London Underground station staff were in solidarity with the cleaners.
‘An injury to one of our members is an injury to all.
‘If Boris Johnson gets his way, then they will come for station staff.’
He urged: ‘Bring back into public service everything that was outsourced and privatised.’
Jan Pollock, from the Campaign Against Tube Privatisation, said: ‘The mayor promised to give a living wage to all the cleaners.
‘All the public say give all the cleaners the Living Wage now. Boris keep your promise!’
Alberto Durango, from the Latin American Workers Association, said: ‘We have heard that on November 26 there is going to be a demonstration by Homerton Hospital cleaners.
‘We need to keep together and we need to keep fighting.’
Pat O’Brien, an RMT health and safety campaigner, said Tory Mayor Johnson was threatening £5 billion cuts over the next eight years ‘and now he’s going to implement them on London Transport and that’s going to have a massive impact on London Transport cleaners.’
He alleged: ‘Boris Johnson gave a pledge all cleaners would be put on the London Living Wage . . . In April ISS said they couldn’t pay the Living Wage unless Tube Lines gave it to them, and Tube Lines said they couldn’t pass it on unless Boris Johnson gave the money to them. . . Boris Johnson forgot his promise.’
RMT officials told News Line the situation was that Metronet cleaners were getting the London Living Wage but faced outsourcing to ICS, while Tube Lines cleaners were still not receiving the London Living Wage.
The future of Tube Lines contracts is also uncertain.
Whereas the RMT rail union has a policy of bringing the rail and tube network and their cleaning workers back into public ownership, the Unite union does not call for re-nationalisation.
‘We will organise meetings in your workplaces to inform you about our strategy to support our members in the Tube with all current and future contractors,’ is all that Unite has to say.
News Line demands re-nationalisation of all the privatised industries, utilities and public services, with all-out general strike action and mass demonstrations by the trade unions to win this demand.