Rail union brands 'GWR Cleaning Heroes' Hi Vis vests 'patronising and hypocritical'

16 November 2020, 12:49

The RMT branded the vests 'patronising and hypocritical'
The RMT branded the vests 'patronising and hypocritical'. Picture: RMT

By Megan White

Rail union RMT has hit out at Great Western Railway after they issued Hi Vis vests to cleaning staff emblazoned with the words 'GWR Cleaning Heroes,' which the union says are 'patronising and hypocritical.'

The union said the vests, worn by Servest contractors, imply that the staff are direct GWR employees "when in fact they are contracted ‎out and have to fight every inch on pay and conditions."

They have demanded they are "withdrawn immediately" as they will "expose members to abuse and ridicule."

In a letter to the company, General Secretary Mick Cash said: “I write with regards to the above matter and to raise my grave concerns over your company’s decision to introduce High Visibility Vests with the words ‘GWR Cleaning Heroes’ written on the back, prior to any consultations taking place with my Union Representatives.

“The RMT believes this ‘statement’ is not only patronising and totally inappropriate but will also expose my members to abuse and ridicule. Therefore, I demand that the HV vests are withdrawn immediately and that your company consult with my Representatives before any replacements are sourced.

“The HV vests are personal protective equipment (PPE) and should protect staff against health and safety risks at work. Your company’s choice of wording on the back of these HV vests does not provide any safe assurances to the staff expected to wear them. Why anybody believed that this was an acceptable ‘statement’ to place on PPE is outrageous.

“I trust you will give this matter your urgent attention and that you will immediately withdraw the HV vests and consult with my Representatives in the hope of agreeing to a suitable alternative.”

A Great Western Railway spokesman said: "While these are Servest employees and it is for Servest to discuss the RMT's concerns, we are incredibly proud of the work they do.

"They are at the forefront of the fight against Covid, helping to ensure passengers can travel in safety and with confidence.

"This is being borne out by the emergence of research showing trains as one of the safest indoor environments, with the chances of contracting the virus while travelling extremely low.

"It is right that we highlight the cleaners' work and that their role is recognised. Our partnership has been stated on their uniform for a number of years: 'Working proudly with GWR'."