“We will not tolerate low pay in this day and age, nor being treated like second rate people. We clean your trains, your stations and your depots. We mop up all the nasty stuff that no one else wants to deal with. We clean up after four million people who use the London underground system so they can enjoy clean trains to use and clean stations to pass through.”
So begins the leaflet given out by cleaners on London Underground on strike with the RMT on New Years Eve and New Years Day.
Cleaners are employed by private companies Initial and ISS and are paid poverty wages of £8.30 an hour, with no holiday pay, sick pay, decent pension or free travel on the underground network they clean.
The RMT demands £12.50 an hour, plus better working conditions, and says that all cleaning jobs should be brought back in-house.
A lively picket of cleaners from stations across London took place on New Years Eve at Kings Cross.
RMT Assistant General Secretary Steve Hedley made the point that the bosses rely on the hope that mainly migrant workforces will be difficult to organise. But the RMT has worked to organise East European, African and Latin American workers together into a powerful force.
The bosses have stooped to a new low, bribing agency staff with £12.45 an hour to break the strike. The RMT made an appeal to agency workers with a special leaflet in different languages, explaining the strike and the bosses’ bribe, and appealing to workers to join the RMT. “The union fights for secure, permanent employment for all.”
National Shop Stewards Network supporters and Socialist Party members helped get the word around stations in the immediate run up to the strike and brought our solidarity to the picket line. The workers were also supported by other unions organising cleaners in different industries, including the PCS who organise and recently won a pay victory for cleaners at Buckingham Palace.
(By Paula Mitchell)