Cleaners on Eurostar fought a campaign this year over pay, workload and staffing levels. Cleaners on London Underground’s Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines battled hard to resist their employer’s imposition of biometric booking on.
These groups of cleaners work for ISS - popularly known in the industry as International Slavery Services. But other cleaning contractors have found themselves facing a fightback from their workforces too.
Interserve cleaners at Waterloo are battling management bullying. Cleaners fought a dispute with contractor Voith on Virgin West Coast over the victimisation of a workmate. Merseyrail’s cleaning contractor Lorne Stewart faced strike action after tabling a below-inflation pay offer.
Across the various contractors, cleaners experience low pay, unsafe and unpleasant conditions, and substitution by agency workers.
Each dispute is fought with great commitment, and often great sacrifice, by the cleaners. But they are also fought against heavy odds. They will remain uphill struggles for as long as they remain isolated battles.
RMT - the only rail union that takes an interest in cleaners - could make these battles more effective by linking them up into a co-ordinated national struggle. It seemed to be doing this a couple of years ago with a spate of synchronised action, which brought some results. But we haven’t heard much from this initiative lately.
Let’s get it back on track.