On the Picket Line

London train cleaners join 48-hour work stoppage

By Jonathan Silberman
July 29, 2019

LONDON — Chanting, “Low pay, no way!” 40 members of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers picketed the North Pole Hitachi rail depot in northwest London July 9 and 10. Some 60 union members across two shifts had voted to hold a two-day work stoppage to protest speedup, shift schedules and pay cuts announced by ISS, the cleaning contractor employed by Hitachi. Most of the workers have been union members for just a few months. 

At a picket line rally, cleaner Jacob Mensah said that he’d never been involved in anything like this before. “You stood firm,” he told the pickets. “We’re going to defeat these people.” 

“We’re fighting for our rights,” added Anwuli Ogbuaku, “standing our ground in the face of their bullying.”

Currently the cleaners work 10-hour night shifts — four-on, and four off. The company is proposing to cut workers’ pay with a schedule of five-on and two-off with 7½-hour shifts. “We get no night-shift premium, no overtime rates and no additional pay when we work public holidays,” Ogbuaku said.

Joining the picket line in solidarity over the two nights were rail workers from other companies and cleaners on the London Underground.