Tubeworker considers the latest Hi-Vi uniform for cleaning staff which bears the message "UNDERGROUND CLEANING TEAM" to be an elaborate hoax foisted upon an unsuspecting public. This so-called "team" of workers are overworked and underpaid by a disparate band of exploitative multinational privateers and do not enjoy the same wages,conditions, holiday pay or pensions as their "underground teammates".
Apart from the false impression of corporate inclusion that these uniforms convey, they are a clear invitation to our passengers to approach the cleaners for information and advice. Our suspicions are reinforced by recent news that cleaners are to be asked to wear a flag indicating their "country of origin" to advertise their language and cultural skills to the many foreign visitors expected during the Olympic period. Their reward for this new information and advisory function? precisely nothing as yet!
Perhaps the cleaning companies will consider a "citizen of the world" badge for those who do not believe in artificial nationalist boundaries or a red flag for those who believe in international working-class solidarity. Meanwhile the best hope for this particular "team" of workers is for more of them to be wearing a union badge!
A recruitment drive amongst Initial and ISS cleaners has been pursued by a team of activists in the RMT, including talented cleaners, station staff and drivers, showing RMT at its best, committed to a union that brings all grades together. However, all-grades unionism should involve the whole union getting behind campaigns for the lowest-paid. At times it has felt that this work has fallen onto a few dedicated shoulders. The real task for those of us involved in Tubeworker and cleaners' and canteen workers' campaigns to transform our unions into organisations which, at every level, see no division between grades, organise previously unorganised workers as a core activity, not as an add-on. That's how we'll bring our whole class together and be a force the bosses will fear. We'll press on with preparations for a strike for a cleaners' Olympic bonus, pay increase, sick and holiday pay and pensions, using the momentum created by the Olympics. As the campaign grows, hopefully it will gain support from all union leaderships and activists.