LU frequently uses its in-house staff magazine On The Move to give itself undeserved pats on the back. This month is no exception, with an article on cleaning claiming the new ABM contract “ensures our cleaning team gets a fair deal”.
“With the new team”, the article runs, “has come new contracts to ensure our cleaners get fair pay and benefits.”
“We have worked closely with contractor ABM to secure entitlements for these vital colleagues who now benefit from fixed contracts, London’s living wage, and holiday entitlement.”
In fact, all Tube cleaners have been paid the London living wage since 2010, when TubeLines became the last cleaning contractor to implement the rate. This was won by determined action, including strikes, by cleaners from 2007 onwards. To present the London living wage as a benefit “secured” by LU “working with” ABM is disingenuous and an insult to the sacrifices of the cleaners who struck to win the living wage.
ABM cleaners receive only the statutory minimum holiday entitlement, and although ABM has committed to reduce the use of agency labour and guarantee fixed employment over the life of its contract, this is happening painfully slowly, with many cleaners still working as “self-employed contractors” or “limited liability companies” through labour supply agencies like AGS People.
Despite the unjustifiably self-congratulatory tone, the article represents a tacit admission by LU that it is aware that cleaners’ conditions are unacceptable. If it wants to improve them, it should reverse outsourcing altogether, bring cleaning in house, and give cleaners access to the benefits of LU employment such as travel passes and the TfL pension scheme.
In the meantime, RMT needs to keep the pressure on the company by organising cleaners to fight back against both ABM and LU.