London Underground cleaners in the RMT continue to organise. About three weeks ago, cleaning staff at Morden Underground depot succeeded in fighting their management's imposition of a new 7-day a week roster, which would have allowed them no days off!
The RMT cleaner rep came up with an alternative roster, where the same trains would get cleaned, but over five days rather than seven. The cleaners in the depot were solidly organised, and at a branch meeting, the day before the rosters were due to be implemented, cleaners started to organise to walk out. RMT activists from London Underground helped draw up a pro-forma for refusal to work and went down to the gates to show solidarity when the cleaners took their action.
Management backed down and agreed to implement the alternative roster, a real sign of what cleaners' activity and solidarity from other grades can achieve.
This is one success, but the general abuses continue. Across-the-board, cleaners have inadequate or inhumane mess-room facilities – one mess room is reported to be no more than a cupboard that you can't stand up in! Each London Underground branch for the stations and trains is now supposed to have a “cleaners’ co-ordinator”, to make all grades of the union take action on these local issues. One branch, on the north of the Northern Line, will hopefully soon involve local reps in a campaign against cleaning company, ISS, overworking its cleaners. The company claims money from Tubelines, who give them the contract, for workers who don't exist, and the cleaners are left to work as many as five Northern Line stations at a time!
The TGWU started organising Underground cleaners a few years ago. This has divided cleaners, and benefitted management, who have recognised the TGWU to shut out the more industrially threatening RMT. But both unions have started to work together to get the £7.20 London Living Wage, to which Ken Livingstone says he is committed, but will not enforce on the companies he employs. Decent pay will not be won without a fight, and it is a huge step forward that both unions are talking about industrial action to win their demands.