As the Olympics approach tomorrow, London is cleaning up to look our best for the world. Now, we all know the problems with the London Underground. My colleagues and I know them up close and personal. For the past 12 years, I have worked on the Underground and have been campaigning with RMT to end the exploitation of London’s cleaners, many of whom are migrants.
Tomorrow during the Opening Ceremony, we will celebrate many of the great things about London and the United Kingdom. But as the world watches our best athletes, the realities of my life and my fellow cleaners cannot be ignored.
In many ways, the cleaners of the London Underground are the hidden slaves of England. Inequality and exploitation are rampant within Transport for London and cleaning company subcontractors. Managers are sacking people for organising in unions, for being migrants, and for demanding higher pay.
I believe there is dignity in labour, in working hard, and we are proud to do the work that must be done.
We have explained our full list of demands to Transport for London. Three issues that are representative of the inequality we face are:
[h4]No Olympic Bonus[/h4]
Cleaners were cut out of Olympic Bonuses while Tube drivers, maintenance and control staff, bus drivers and bike hire workers all receive bonuses of up to £850. While maintenance staff will not be doing any maintenance (except emergency work) and tube drivers are manning their usual posts, cleaners will be dealing with the rubbish of almost a million more travellers each day. If anyone deserves the bonus, it’s us!
[h4]No Sick Pay[/h4]
Cleaners do not receive sick pay. Again, while other workers on the Underground are entitled to sick pay, we are left empty handed. Why don’t we deserve sick pay? We fall ill like everyone else and our families rely on our ability to work and provide for them. No one should be forced to put their health at risk because our employers won’t pay for sick days.
[h4]No Travel Card[/h4]
Cleaners must pay travel, sometimes peak fare, while other workers on the Underground travel for free. The inequality here is clear. Why are we being made to pay required travel for our job while others are compensated for it? In order for us to do our job well and on the already low wages we are paid, we deserve to have free travel like everyone else who works on the Underground.
We will continue to organise the cleaners in order to fight back on these and other issues. I only wish that as the Olympics plough forward this month, it is not only us who want to clean up this ugly injustice.
RMT Cleaning Grade Secretary