The UK’s National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) demanded on May 5, Tuesday, that the London Metro (Tube) authorities urgently address the concerns raised by the contractual sanitation staff of the facility. Tube Union RMT also asked London mayor Sadiq Khan for a meeting with a delegation of tube cleaners via video conferencing after a new survey highlighted the lack of measures to ensure the workers’ safety during the COVID-19 crisis by the tube’s cleaning contractor, ABM.
According to reports, the contract cleaning staff has been denied staff travel cards which allow travel across the Transport of London (TfL) network, despite other tube workers receiving this benefit. Sanitation staff who have been furloughed (sent on leave) are also receiving only 80% of their pay, while other staff are entitled to 100%. The UK government had introduced the furlough program in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis and paid the wages of nearly a quarter of all the workers forced to take leave due to the pandemic.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said, “The hypocrisy towards tube cleaners is breath-taking. On the one hand, they are told by the Mayor and others they are doing an amazing job and they’re vital to the fight against coronavirus, then in the same breath they’re told you can’t have all the same basic conditions of employment as other tube staff, not even free tube travel.”
“Grand public statements are worthless unless there’s a change in the way these cleaners are treated. I know Sadiq Khan gets this because he had himself photographed with Underground cleaners employed by ABM as part of TfL’s response to the Coronavirus,” he added.
Earlier in April, trade unions in the UK had demanded enhanced security measures for transport workers in the country. In London alone, 29 transport workers (including 23 bus drivers and four London Underground and rail workers) had died due to COVID-19 by the last week of April.