ABM email

Cleaners win full sick pay if they self-isolate

Published on: Tue, 17/03/2020 - 16:59

ABM have written to cleaners informing them that, following an agreement with TfL, any cleaner who self-isolates during the Covid-19 crisis will be paid at their full shift rate. Previously, cleaners were only being paid Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), less than £100 per week.

This is a major concession, and one that would not have been secured without union pressure - specifically from the RMT, the only union on the job to organise cleaners and other outsourced workers.

RMT, hopefully with the support of other unions, must now keep that pressure up to ensure any cleaner who develops Covid-19 symptoms beyond an initial period of self-isolation continues to receive full pay, and that the policy is made permanent once the crisis is over. SSP is simply not enough to live on, and no worker should have to choose between their health and putting food on the table.

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Covid-19 and us

Published on: Thu, 12/03/2020 - 13:52

In the midst of what is now officially a pandemic, it's unsurprising that Covid-19 and its impacts are dominating discussion on the job.

LU has agreed that anyone self-isolating with no symptoms will be categorised as on special leave, rather than off sick. Anecdotally, local managers seem to be recording people who are self-isolating with symptoms as unavailable, or on special leave, rather than "off sick" too. That's positive, as a categorisation of "sick" could lead to people being penalised.

For example, we all know stories of managers using the ambiguity in the sick pay policy (which says that, for those with less than a year's service, company sick pay can be paid for nine weeks at managerial discretion) to get away without paying. Will newer staff be financially punished if they develop symptoms? There needs to be a clear and consistent policy across the board: all staff, regardless of length of service, must be paid full company sick pay from day one of absence/isolation. Under no circumstances should any Covid-related absence be counted as an "item" for the purposes of the attendance and discipline policies.

Questions have been asked about whether LU/TfL are taking sufficient precautions, given that Palestra remains open despite the confirmation of a case of the virus there. As the pandemic continues, shutting down large office buildings must be considered.

Sadiq Khan had a photo-op at London Bridge station to announce the fact that ABM cleaners had been given new anti-viral chemicals to disinfect station surfaces. Great... but why has it taken so long to implement this? And how are ABM staff meant to cope with a new cleaning regime and increase workload when their numbers have been slashed? ABM has no company sick pay scheme, meaning any ABM cleaner who develops symptoms or needs to self-isolate will only receive Statutory Sick Pay; far from enough to live on. Company sick pay needs to be extended to all workers on LU, directly-employed and outsourced.

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Coronavirus sick pay scandal

Published on: Wed, 04/03/2020 - 21:53

As concern understandably grows across the job about the coronavirus, ABM cleaners are in an especially difficult situation. They work in some of the dirtiest, least hygienic conditions across LU, but the scandalous refusal of ABM to pay them company sick pay means they simply can't afford to be ill.

They receive only statutory sick pay, which is not enough to cover their wages, meaning cleaners who may be experiencing potential coronavirus symptoms could be forcing themselves into work - because missing work could mean not being able to pay rent, or feed their families. ABM and LU's penny-pinching is putting thousands of cleaners, other LU workers, and LU passengers at risk.

ABM should pay full company sick pay, from the first day of absence.

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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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