AS THE Omicron crisis grips the capital, Labour politicians yesterday called for public ownership of London Transport cleaning services.
The MPs and peers made the demand in a letter to Transport for London (TfL) boss Andy Byford calling on him to ‘do the right thing’ for London’s Underground cleaners and put a final stop to the outsourcing that sees them struggle to make ends meet as they battle to keep the Tube safe during the current Omicron crisis.
Signed by senior Labour figures like former TUC general secretary Lord Monks, former Labour Party general secretary Lord Whitty, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, 11 serving London Labour MPs and nine London Labour peers, the letter notes: ‘London’s transport cleaners, the majority of whom are from Black, Asian, ethnic minority and migrant worker communities, have been overlooked and outsourced on the mistaken assumption that they were “non-core” to transport operations …
‘The pandemic has shown beyond doubt however that our cleaners are vital to the safe and efficient operation of public transport in London’ and calls on TfL Commissioner Byford to ‘seize this opportunity to do the right thing and set a new standard in the treatment of cleaners.’
RMT transport union General Secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘As we approach the festive period we need to remember the vital role of our poorly paid overworked London Transport cleaners who are putting their lives on the line to keep our network safe as the Omicron crisis deepens.
‘We welcome this political support for our cleaners and the campaign to return transport cleaning to public ownership. A London Underground, which is kept clean on the basis of public safety and not private profit, is surely what a Labour Mayor should be putting in place.
‘It is a scandal that London’s tube cleaners, who everyone knows are essential frontline workers, are outsourced and exploited. This is a workforce of low paid mainly Black, Asian, ethnic minority and migrant workers and TfL have sweated them for too long.’
Meanwhile, the RMT has also called on the Scottish Government to stop ‘playing fast and loose with people’s lives’ following the publication of the Scottish budget for 2022-23 which show cuts of £74 million to the railway infrastructure budget on the previous year.
These budget cuts come before the final report into the rail disaster at Carmont in Aberdeenshire which is expected in January 2022 and will likely make recommendations for the Scottish Government and Network Rail Scotland to increase infrastructure spending to ensure that a derailment like the one at Carmont is never allowed to happen again.