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SECTION 3: SECTORS

Part 1: Cleaning London’s Underground

Box 1: A Worker’s Profile Kobena is a 37 year old Ghanaian. In his home country he had acquired a first degree and worked in state housing. He came to the UK in 2003, and has since been a cleaner with the Underground. He has a long working week of 54 hours, and although it includes overtime, he earns the flat rate of £4.85 per hour. He has only 12 days of paid holiday a year, does not receive any sick pay, nor any additional pay (e.g. London Weighting) or other benefits from his employer. He supports four children in the UK, and also sends money to family abroad. He dislikes having to pay for travelling on the Underground to do his job. In his view, his employer does not care about workers: ‘They just want us to work.’

A striking finding of the survey was the very heavy concentration of African migrants on the London Underground, particularly those from Nigeria and Ghana, who made up 39% and 19% of the Underground cleaners respectively. Consequently, Black Africans comprised the largest ethnic group in this sector. Eastern Europe contributed the second, but much smaller, proportion of migrants (15%), which accounts for the fact that Non-British Whites made up the second highest ethnic group in this sector.

Such ethnic concentration may be attributable to the tendency to use social networks to gain access to jobs on the Underground. Nearly three out of four workers relied on family and friends to find out about their current job. Agencies provided the second but far less important source of information about job opportunities (11%).

A key finding in relation to the Underground was evidence of subcontracting. The three main employers in this sector are shown in Table 6, although up to ten smaller companies were also identified. Some workers reported that they had transferred from one employer to another in the past, and some had had three different employers despite doing the same kind of work on the tube. Whilst transferred workers tended to retain their current rate of pay and conditions, being covered by TUPE, new employees were taken on at lower rates with poorer conditions of work.5 This consequently created a pay disparity within the workforce employed by any one company and served to fuel discontent.

Employer

No

ISS

43

Blue Diamond

19

GBM

13

Other

6

Table 6: Main Employers in Cleaning London’s Underground

Total

81

% 53.1 23.5 16.0 7.4 100

5 TUPE refers to the Transfer of Undertakings (protection of employment) regulations that cover those workers being transferred from one employer to another in the process of contracting out, or when contracts are re-tendered and work moves from one contractor to another and workers move too.

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