Strikes by Tube cleaners in 2007-8 won an agreement that cleaners’ wages, regardless of which company held the outsourced cleaning contract, would be pegged to the London Living Wage. The 2019/20 LLW calculation was £10.75. That’s due to rise to £10.85 in April 2021.
But that 10p/hour increase won’t go very far. Many living costs are increasing, including travel. TfL fares went up on 1 March, by an average of 2.6%.
An annual travelcard for a cleaner living in Zone 4 and working in Zone 1 now costs £2,128. If they live in Zone 5, it’s £2,532. Depending on their hours, that could be more than 10% of a cleaners’ annual salary.
Any cleaners who can’t afford this outlay are likely to have to buy weekly or monthly travelcards instead, which over the course of the year add up to an even greater amount.
This casts doubt on whether the London Living Wage is a genuinely “living wage”. Isn’t it time we started talking about £12 or £15/hour as the target?
The issue also highlights the obscene injustice that Tube cleaners – who are as much a part of the Tube’s permanent, core workforce as station staff, drivers, or engineers – have to pay to use the system their labour helps to run, while directly-employed workmates have staff travel passes.