“If we want passengers to have the confidence to use our trains, we need to take back control of cleaning"

As rail industry announces inquiry into whether to end outsourcing of train and station cleaning new report reveals cleaners don’t have enough staff to do jobs properly and ending outsourcing would improve standards.

Almost half the cleaners working on Britain’s rail network believe they don’t have enough staff to do their jobs properly whilst a majority say that their employers put profits before public health and passengers would benefit more if cleaners were employed in-house rather than being outsourced, according to a new report published by RMT today.

The report also found that following a survey of train companies outsourcing means rail bosses don’t know, or won’t say, how many cleaners are employed on the railway.

The report was released following the announcement by the rail industry that it is reviewing whether to end the outsourcing of cleaning and as RMT rail cleaners from around the country meet at their annual conference to demand an end to the privatisation of cleaning and better treatment of cleaning staff who have been essential workers during the pandemic. The cleaners will also be taking their message to Parliament as 12pm on 20th July.

The Mayor of London is also undertaking a review as to whether to take London Underground cleaning in–house.

In the light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the railway industry has been on a PR offensive over its cleaning regimes recently, recognising that addressing concerns over cleanliness and hygiene will be central to attracting passengers back to the railway. But RMT’s report ‘Cleaning Up the Railways’ reveals the dirty truth behind the publicity, that effective cleaning is hampered by an outdated and dogmatic attachment to outsourcing which leads to cost-cutting in the search for profits.

Research in the NHS and US hospital systems has shown that outsourced cleaning produces worse public health outcomes because outsourcing companies seek to cut costs and produce profits by holding down cleaners pay and cutting jobs and RMT’s report raises major concerns about the use of outsourced cleaning on the railways.

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said:

“If we want passengers to have the confidence to use our trains, we need to take back control of cleaning. Behind the glossy PR saying how seriously the rail industry is taking cleaning, the cleaners themselves are saying loudly and clearly that there are not enough cleaning staff, that profit is being put before safety and that the Covid–19 pandemic has shown more than ever that it is time to end the dogmatic and outdated outsourcing of cleaning which means even rail bosses don’t know how many cleaners are employed.

“We can’t leave this essential service in the hands of cut-price profiteers who seek to turn a buck by exploiting people who are going to be at the heart of our industry’s future. The Rail Industry and London Mayor know there’s a problem which is why they have agreed to undertake their reviews. They have the chance to turn the page on this sorry episode and I’m calling on them to show that they value passengers as much as profit by putting an end to outsourcing now.”