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London train cleaners protest for Olympic bonus, other benefits

BY INGRID BROWN Associate Editor — Special Assignment browni@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, July 28, 2012    

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LONDON, England — Cleaners on the London Underground and the Dockland Light Railway yesterday staged a peaceful protest near the Olympic stadium to demand their Olympic bonus as well as free passes to ride the trains they work on, among other fringe benefits.

Armed with placards, banners and bullhorns and supported by union representatives, the cleaners — among them many migrant workers — demanded that the authorities address their concerns. The protest happened under the watchful eyes of the police while curious visitors captured the moment on camera.

"What do we want?" shouted one of the protesters with a bullhorn.

"Olympic bonus!" shouted his colleagues in chorus.

"When do you want it?" the leader asked.

"We want it now!" shouted the protesters, before they began to blow whistles.

The workers said that despite months of negotiations, cleaning companies have refused to grant them an Olympic bonus although they will be doing some of the hardest work during the Games.

The protesters further accused the companies of not yielding to their long-standing demands for sick pay, free travel, 28-day holiday and pension scheme.

Joseph Mambuliya, an African migrant, told the Jamaica Observer that the cleaners have been exploited for too long as there was no equality between them and other tube workers.

He explained further that while the drivers and their families receive a pass to travel free on the tubes, cleaners must pay to ride to work on the same trains they are cleaning.

"I spent £1,014 last year alone to get to and from work to clean the trains and that is not fair, because if you work for Tesco (a food chain), you get discount as an employee. So why can't we?" he asked

Another protester, a migrant who identified himself only as Ebenezer, said the cleaners should get an Olympics bonus of £900 and they would continue to protest until they receive what they are entitled to.

"They spent billions to stage the Olympics and they can't give us what is owed to us," he said.

Meanwhile, Janine Booth, a London Transport region representative, said there has been one million extra tube passengers, 800,000 extra bus passengers, free Olympic tickets, for members of parliament, chauffeur-driven BMW, and five police outriders for Olympic chief Jacques Rogge, yet nothing for the cleaners but extra workload.

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