A London Underground cleaning contract thought to be worth more than £20m was terminated after it emerged that the contractor was underpaying its staff.
Blue Diamond, the UK’s largest independent cleaning firm, disregarded its contract with Tube infrastructure consortium Metronet by paying workers the legal minimum wage of £5.05 an hour instead of the £5.50 agreed, it was alleged.
Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union (T&G), which warned Metronet about the underpayment, praised the company for terminating the contract.
“Metronet has done the decent thing, acting promptly and properly to terminate the contract,” he said. “The T&G is determined to end the often shameful treatment of cleaners.”
Dromey said the union was taking legal advice about lodging a claim for back pay on behalf of the workers, who had been underpaid for four months.
Business services company Rentokil Initial is expected to take over the contract on Friday, together with the 400 cleaners.
Metronet’s chief executive, Andrew Lezala, said the contract was signed in October, but that workers only became aware they were being underpaid in recent weeks.
“We were very clear about what we wanted in this contract,” he said. “We want excellent people doing an excellent job in all of our supply chain. We are prepared to pay for that and if people don’t get that message, they will have to pay for it.”
The three-year contract involved cleaning 90 stations on the District, Circle, Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City and East London lines.
A spokeswoman for Blue Diamond said the company believed in higher pay for cleaners, but that it was under commercial pressure from clients to hold wages down.