Bosses' devices

Published on: Tue, 18/02/2020 - 23:48

Cleaning contractor ABM is issuing cleaners with new mobile devices, loaded with an app called "OnTime", which will be used for booking in and out of shifts, logging breaks, and booking holiday.

ABM has got into a fix with technology of this sort in the past, with a booking-on system based on scanning a QR code leading to numerous problems (see our report on that here). What if these new devices have similar problems? Will we see a return to the bad old days of routine short payment of wages that was common under Interserve and ISS?

This new initiative is made much worse by the fact that cleaners are being made to sign a document confirming that they will be liable for the device, and that failure to comply with the "terms and conditions" set out in the document could result in disciplinary action! Essentially they are being made to sign an addition to their contracts, which is being imposed without even cursory consultation.

London Underground issues all station staff with iPads, which can also be used for personal use, outside of work time. But LU accepts that, as this is a device it has decided to issue to staff and which it expects them to use for work purposes, it has responsibility for them, and will replace them if they are broken. They're also not used for signing in and out of shifts, have no link to payroll, and, since LU's ill-fated "Rostering and Coverage Tool" was scrapped and thrown in the bin (along with the £16 million it cost to develop it), aren't used for booking annual leave either. By comparison, ABM is imposing these devices on cleaners, telling them they're for work use only, but demanding they sign a document saying they, the cleaners, are responsible for the device, rather than ABM!

The whole thing is faintly dystopian... a 21st-century version of punching a time card, imposed by an employer no doubt keen to monitor its staff as closely as it can. While small numbers of individuals refusing to sign the documents risks exposing isolated groups of workers to disciplinary action, RMT must look to organise a collective response.

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Keep up momentum in cleaners' fight

Published on: Sat, 23/11/2019 - 16:27

To keep up momentum after anti-union laws scuppered the strike ballot, RMT must call further activity in the “Justice for Tube Cleaners” campaign.

Any and all suggestions should be considered. How about demonstrations at City Hall, or key TfL/LU office buildings such as Palestra or 55 Broadway?

The underlying message of the cleaners’ campaign is that cleaners are as much part of the permanent London Underground workforce as drivers, station staff, or engineers, and as such deserve equal treatment.

That’s a message that TfL/LU bosses and the Mayor need to hear loud and clear.

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Cleaners: vote yes for strikes!

Published on: Wed, 23/10/2019 - 12:01

After months of preparation, RMT will ballot ABM cleaners for industrial action. The ballot runs from 28 October to 19 November. Tubeworker encourages all cleaners to vote yes.

Cleaners are fighting for travel passes, company sick pay, and improved holiday/pension entitlements. It is an utter disgrace that cleaners, who are as much part of the permanent, day-to-day LU workforce as station staff or drivers, don't have access to the same facilities that directly-employed staff do. Strong industrial action will put pressure on ABM as the contractor, but also on TfL/LU and the Mayor, who are ultimately responsible for the exploitative conditions in which cleaners work.

As the campaign gear up, we'll be discussing ways in which workers in other grades can support our cleaner colleagues.

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Ask For More Cleaners!

Published on: Sat, 03/08/2019 - 09:43

ABM claims that its latest job-cutting scheme is actually just flexibility in allocating resources. This has seen even some large and busy stations left with just one cleaner on duty. The company says that station staff can ask for more cleaners on your station, but we are not sure that this is sufficiently widely known.

So, if you need an extra cleaner on your station, ask for one (or more!). If there is an event coming up, or the weather forecast is worrying you, or the place could really do with a tidy-up, ask.

If you don’t ask you won’t get, and your sole cleaner will be left with the demands of your whole station on their shoulders. Standards will slip, safety problems could arise, and when there is an incident, guess what? Management will be asking the CSM and CSS why they didn’t ask for another cleaner!

If we all ask for extra cleaners, perhaps both LUL and ABM will realise that the current numbers of cleaners are far too low, no matter how ‘flexibly’ they are spread around.

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Gone away, won’t pay?

Published on: Thu, 18/07/2019 - 13:21

Cleaning agency APG no longer exists. APG's agency cleaners have been transferred to the main contractor, ABM.

That sounds good until you hear that APG neglected to pay its workers outstanding holiday pay before it disbanded. Cleaners are owed hundreds of pounds. ABM says, 'It's nothing to do with us. Cleaners need to speak to APG'. But APG has gone!

So where is a cleaner to turn? To the RMT of course! Sub-contracted companies and agencies dodge paying cleaners' wages too easily. Cleaners need to be directly employed by LU.

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LU and ABM collude on cleaner job cuts

Published on: Thu, 20/06/2019 - 13:02

What an absolutely phenomenal piece of spin on the LU intranet, as the company scrambles to defend its collusion in cleaner job cuts.

A bulletin claims LU has “worked with ABM to review the way we deploy cleaners”, and “decided to switch the focus from the number of cleaners that are allocated to each location to the overall quality of the work they’re doing”. As a consequence, “you [i.e., the LU staff reading the bulletin] may have noticed different numbers of cleaners at different times of the day”. In other words: jobs have been cut.

This is misrepresentation bordering on lies. The “switch” from an “input” model for the LU cleaning contract, where the contract specifies how many cleaners will be provided, to an “output” model, where the contract simply specifies the work to be done and leaves the decision about staffing levels to the contractor happened years ago - before ABM even took over the contract. There is no recent contractual or operational reason for ABM to make job cuts, they’re simply trying to save money.

LU has form when it comes to this sort of propaganda and spin about cleaners. When ABM took over the consolidated cleaning contract, an article in LU’s staff magazine On The Move announced that cleaners “will now be paid the London Living Wage”, as if this was a new innovation LU was making out of the goodness of its heart. In fact, Tube cleaners have been paid the London Living Wage since 2008/9, after a campaign of strikes from RMT secured this concession.

LU and ABM are colluding to exploit cleaners, cut jobs, and then distort the reality of this exploitation and cuts in what they communicate to directly-employed staff.

Don’t fall for it. The reason there are fewer cleaners at your station or depot is because ABM, with LU’s approval, have slashed jobs.

We all need to stand together to demand that jobs are reinstated, and that LU properly fulfils its responsibilities to the workers who clean its stations, depots, trains, and facilities by employing them directly.

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Demonstrate at City Hall!

Published on: Tue, 18/06/2019 - 12:00

RMT has called a demo outside City Hall on Thursday 20 June. It demands “no Tory cuts under a Labour mayor”, pressing Sadiq Khan not to pass on Tory austerity to transport workers and users in London.

The two specific focuses are the “Transformation” scheme, which threatens thousands of jobs in engineering and admin roles, and the struggles of outsourced workers.

The demo assembles from 10:00. Tubeworker will be there, and we hope you will be too.

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Why Tube cleaners plan to strike

Published on: Tue, 04/06/2019 - 23:21

Tube cleaners in the RMT are preparing to ballot for strikes. Here, a cleaner tells Tubeworker why.

“Tube cleaners have been campaigning for many years against injustice. We're fighting for dignity, and equal conditions in our workplaces. Currently we have no company sick pay, which means cleaners who get sick are forced to come to work or face financial hardship. And we also have no free travel passes, unlike directly-employed staff working on the railway.

“The biggest demand we are fighting for is direct employment, for cleaning to be brought in house. I don't consider myself an ABM cleaner. I am a TfL cleaner, I am a London Underground cleaner. ABM will probably go in a few years, some other contractor will come along. But we are doing the same work, cleaning London Underground. We should be employed directly.

“There's hasn't been industrial action for several years; union members amongst cleaners have been waiting for this dispute for a long time. People were asking, “when are we going to have a real fight?” Non-members have also been enthused by the announcement that we're planning to ballot. Since the decision was announced, I've personally recruited six people. Cleaners want to join because they see us preparing for a strike.

“We're not planning to strike simply because we're pissed off. Action is an essential organising tool. A union is only as strong as its membership. By taking action, we build the union. We need support and guidance from the rest of RMT. Many cleaners have English as a second language and many not know their legal rights. Some feel scared and isolated. The wider union can provide us with direction and information to help us build the dispute, and support us when we take action. We need to be honest with members about what it will take to win.

“We have been making good links with other unions organising cleaners, such as the IWGB. We have attend picket lines and demonstrations with them, and we've been sharing ideas and tactics at events coordinated by the New Economics Foundation. It's good to meet cleaners from universities and hospitals and discuss what we have in common. We're part of the union movement so should support each other. If they strike, they know RMT members will have their back, and vice versa. Our voice is bigger if we combine, so unions organising outsourced workers to demand direct employment should join together in common campaigns.”

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Wot No Passes?

Published on: Tue, 28/05/2019 - 17:25

Some ABM cleaners on the former JNP contract had their pictures taken, apparently in order to be issued with travel passes that would allow them to open gates while at work.

Some time has now passed, and there’s no sign of the passes.

The way to resolve the situation is simple: LU needs to issue all cleaners with the same travel passes directly-employed staff receive.

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ABM slashes jobs

Published on: Thu, 16/05/2019 - 18:03

It appears that ABM is mounting a serious assault on jobs, with reports flooding in from across LU of positions being slashed.

Numerous stations with three or more cleaners on a shift are losing at least one position, with any agency cleaners first in the firing line. Many are being told they have to accept redeployment to a new station, often nowhere near their current one.

Some cleaners are being told by ABM supervisors and bosses that the pressure to make cuts is coming directly from TfL/LUL. We shouldn’t allow ABM bosses to use that fact, if indeed it’s true, to get themselves off the hook for making these cuts. But, if true, it does mean that we need to up the intensity of our fight against outsourcing. Instead of telling a contractor to cut jobs, TfL/LUL should be employing cleaners directly.

One pretext for the cuts, as we’ve previously reported, is that ABM committed to reduce the amount of agency labour on the job when it took over the consolidated contract. It has taken many agency staff from agencies like AGS on a permanent basis, but now appears to be trying to further reduce the amount of agency labour by... cutting jobs! We say: sack the agencies, not the workers!

These cuts make RMT’s recently ratified policy to move towards an industrial dispute and strike ballot of all Tube cleaners even more urgent.

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