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Editor's comment: Never mind us - pay the workers

PUBLISHED: 08:30 11 April 2019

RMT members including cleaners on London Overground trains protest outside Overground House. Picture: POLLY HANCOCK

RMT members including cleaners on London Overground trains protest outside Overground House. Picture: POLLY HANCOCK

Archant

A plan to “minimise impact” of an Overground cleaners’ strike on commuters was not really what the doctor ordered.

Nor was the total silence of Vinci, the firm that employs them, in answer to our requests for comment.

Rail union RMT on Friday challenged Sadiq Khan to pressure Arriva and Vinci over the cleaners’ low pay.

TfL bosses simply passed the buck in response by “urging the two parties to resolve the dispute” – ignoring both their own power as Arriva’s employer and the call for their chair Mr Khan to step in.

As a public body, never mind a Labour-headed authority, that’s pretty disappointing. The impression I get from what was, and wasn’t, said in response to this strike is that no one’s really that bothered about the cleaners.

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If you ask me, that rather serves to underline their point.

Outsourcing and privatisation should not be excuses for public cash to prop up employment conditions that would be unacceptable in the public sector.

When private firms – especially giant multinational ones like Arriva – bid for lucrative public contracts, they should be required to demonstrate how they will treat staff humanely throughout the life of those contracts, including keeping wages in line with accepted standards. If they are unable to bid for millions of pounds because of their HR and finance policies, they’ll soon sort themselves out.

By the same token, public authorities should be accountable for the people to whom they hand our taxes (and fares).

Public funding for TfL’s daily operations has been squeezed to almost nothing, but like councils it must have red lines – even in hard times.

More power to the strikers. The Ham&High echoes the union’s call for a fair wage for them and, indeed, all workers.

A bit less “minimising impact” on us and a bit more maximising pay for them, please.

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