London Underground sick pay scandal

Reprinted courtesy of the Tubeworker blog

At the beginning of the pandemic, RMT won an agreement from TfL and cleaning contractor ABM that any cleaner who needed to self-isolate, or take time off sick due to Covid, would be paid in full. Normally cleaners only receive Statutory Sick Pay of £95.85 per week, well below their usual weekly rate and clearly not enough to live on. This agreement meant cleaners who had symptoms could afford to self-isolate, and wouldn’t have to drag themselves to work, putting themselves and others in danger, because they were worried about paying the bills.

That agreement has now been withdrawn. 

This is an absolutely scandalous move from penny-pinching bosses. Tube cleaners are absolutely on the frontline of confronting the pandemic, doing vital work to keep our stations, trains, depots, and offices clean. If they can’t afford to follow public health guidance and self-isolate when necessary, that represents a huge infection control risk that puts the cleaners themselves, other workers, and passengers in danger.

RMT is taking up the issue with ABM, TfL, and the Mayor. If ABM “can’t afford” to pay full sick pay, TfL should subsidise them. Although as an RMT report from January showed, ABM is making profits.

If progress isn’t made quickly, the issue needs to be escalated, including via industrial action – and not just by cleaners. Although anti-union laws prevent workers from striking directly in solidarity with others, our unions should explore the possibility of declaring disputes on behalf of directly-employed TfL and LU staff on the basis that TfL/LU’s refusal to guarantee full sick pay for cleaners puts all workers in the workplace at risk.

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