James Kilby reports on the fight for decent working rights and conditions by cleaners on the London Underground, who are demanding to be brought in-house.

London Underground cleaners demonstrated outside City Hall on Thursday 12th October to demand that Sadiq Khan, the Labour Mayor of London, bring them back in-house by directly employing them. The London Underground tube lines are in effect London’s arteries; the cleaners therefore have enormous power should they organise to use it.

London Underground cleaners demonstrated outside City Hall on Thursday 12th October to demand that Sadiq Khan, the Labour Mayor of London, bring them back in-house by directly employing them.

Rather than end outsourcing, Khan recently signed a new seven-year contract with private contractor ABM, which means continued insecurity and poverty for the cleaners.

Inspired by the victory of cleaners at the School of Oriental and African Studies(SOAS) and the London School of Economics (LSE), cleaners on the London Underground - who are organised in the RMT - have vowed to take their struggle to the end.

By returning in-house, Tube cleaners would enjoy basic rights such as travel passes, paid holidays and sick pay. As Richard, a cleaner at the demonstration noted, the London Underground network - with its re-circulated air - is a breeding ground for illness, particularly for cleaners who are mopping up blood, vomit and animal faeces. With their wages so low and no sick pay, cleaners are forced to come to work unwell, spreading their illnesses to other staff and passengers.

Despite cleaning the transport system and keeping it running, the cleaners are forced to pay for their own travel to work. This can amount to as much as £200 per month to reach the depots! One cleaner noted how they are effectively treated “like slaves”, being passed from one contractor to another, on poverty pay and no security.

The demonstrators also called for a £10 an hour wage and for cleaners to be able to join the TFL pension scheme.

John Leach, RMT Regional Organiser for London, told Socialist Appeal:

“This won’t be the end today; this is part of a process of campaigning, and it will continue until we get there.”

“We don’t rule anything out: further demonstrations, days of action, and potentially of course industrial action – we’ll probably end up there, the way things are looking.”

Militant action is clearly the way forward, as the SOAS and LSE cleaners proved. The London Underground tube lines are in effect London’s arteries; the cleaners therefore have enormous power should they organise to use it.

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