back to article Rail union ballots for strike over fingerprints

Eurostar cleaners are considering strike action over changes to working practises which mean they must provide fingerprints when they clock on or off. Railway union RMT is calling on members working for Carlisle Cleaning Services which runs cleaning services at St Pancras on behalf of Eurostar to ballot to go on strike over …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not such a bad idea

    Our company uses a similar system for our temp. staff (mainly East Europeans), and in the first few days caught out almost a dozen people who weren't employed by us or the agency we use, but were there in place of the staff member vetted and employed to do a certain job.

  2. John Smith Gold badge

    Who is asking for this?

    And just as importantly why?

    A cleaning company wanting to install this stuff off its own bat at their expense. I think not.

    Has one of Jacquie's little helpers been whispering in their ear?

  3. Jeff Deacon

    Now this is a surprise!

    I never, ever thought that I could agree on anything with Bob "Any excuse for a bit of industrial sabotage" Crowe. But here it is.

    We both agree that the fingerprinting of staff is abhorrent.

    For the first time in my life I agree with the RMT suggesting a strike!

    Its a strange world that we live in!

  4. Anonymous Coward

    i wonder if...

    the outrage is caused by the fact that company recruits - shall we say - those of a different religion

  5. DavCrav

    In the ballot...

    ... they'll need some way to make sure that people are who they say they are, and don't vote twice. How about fingerprints?

  6. Nicholas Wright
    Thumb Up

    Am I missing the point, but...

    ... isn't this just a more foolproof way of clocking on and off? It's not like they have an expectation of anonymity. How do they expect to get paid?

    I can totally imagine people clocking their friends in/out as needed.

    ID cards is one thing, and as long as the finger prints aren't passed on to the police, I'm not sure I see the problem.

  7. Michael Fremlins

    For once I am on the same side as Bob Crowe

    I have always considered Bob Crowe very eager to call a strike for the flimsiest of reasons. Indeed, whenever I have gone on holiday and taken the train/tube to the airport, I have woken on the day with some trepidation lest Bob Crowe had called a strike because a railway worker had cut his finger.

    For once I am in agreement with Crowe.

  8. Dennis
    Paris Hilton

    Line up Voter!

    In order to protect your freedoms from those that would enslave us we need to track you just to make sure your freedoms aren't being curtained.

    Except if you do something that we don't like. Then you become a terriost. So what's it to be..... Voter or Terrorist


    Paris because everybody knows where she has been. funar, funar

  9. Anonymous Coward

    A little clarification please

    What exactly is meant by "provide fingerprints"?

    Is this simply the RMT overreacting to a biometric clocking system that doesn't actually store any fingerprint images?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ AC Biometric clocking

    wouldn't a biometric clocking system require a reference fingerprint to be stored?

  11. Richard Silver badge

    @ AC, 09:44 GMT

    It couldn't possibly work if it didn't store the fingerprints.

    Such a system requires at a minimum, a database containing a fingerprint of all authorised users, each matched to a user ID.

    It's also time to get the ICO on the case - there's no need whatsoever for this, and it's actually LESS secure, not more.

    What is needed is very simple - a human security person, checking photos on company ID card against the face of the person carrying them.

    Humans also have the great advantage of being capable of making decisions.

    How about this: A person has no fingerprint today because they hurt their hand and are wearing a bandage.

    Human - Hi XXX! How did you hurt your hand? Do you need any help?


  12. EnricoSuarve

    The truly abhorrant thing is..

    How dehumanised has this company become?

    What they are basically saying is - "we care so little about who does the cleaning we couldn't identify them if we tried, so we'll get a computer to do it for us"

    How hard is it to know who you are employing? If your staff retention is really so poor that this is impossible then you have a larger problem than not being able to identify people

    All in all this is yet another example of trying to use computers as a replacement for doing the job thoroughly in the first place, which rather than making the whole thing more secure just introduces new ways of it going wrong. There is no replacement for happy motivated staff who recognise one another and would actually spot the suspicious guy they've never seen before; relegating it all to a little black box means that people will live under a false sense of security. Meanwhile Osama Bin Bombin' is climbing over the fence, digging under the wall or borrowing someones thumbs to get on board your train...

    "Who's he?"

    "Dunno but he's got past the fingerprint scanner so he must be OK"


    This is the physical security equivalent of the password that is so horrendously complex you HAVE to write it down - it gives everyone a cosy feeling of invulnerability whilst actually making the entire setup less secure

  13. ElFatbob

    @ AC #1

    Interesting point.

    I can't help thinking that apart from this governments obsession with birth<->death surveillance, we will see more and more of these 'sticking plaster' schemes to deal with the underlying problem that due to the relaxation of border controls, we just do not know who is in this country anymore.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    First they came for the railway cleaners...

    For those of you who are not railway cleaners, just spare a thought for who might be next if they get away with it. It could be you.

    Give the cleaners your support.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Anyone see that episode where they fooled fingerprint readers with a latex swatch? And a piece of paper!

  16. Muscleguy Silver badge

    Time for Mythbusters

    All it would take is for a some viewing of that Mythbusters episode where they teach everyone various methods to outwit these devices. Then let the company install them and invite a few journos to don some fake fingerprints to get inside. Result: machine replaced with a person.

    I agree that it says nothing good about the employment climate and culture in this company. Bet they won the contract by offering a rock bottom price.

  17. Justabloke

    Order of the British Empire...

    @AC 08:27 I see no mention of anyone's religion so I would suggest your post says more about you than Bob Crowe

    I too find myself on the same side of the room as Bob Crowe.... it's not a happy place...

    if I had to clock in and out of work and that was to be done via finger print scanner, I'd probably object to it as well.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Biometrics without images

    From the Reg. article "MPs investigate school fingerprinting" date 20th January 2007,

    "The fingerprints were translated into codes that could not be reversed back into prints and the data was stored using 128-bit "military-level" encryption so the children's biometrics where safe."

    This article does not make clear exactly how the biometric data is handled and so I asked for some clarification to see if the RMT is justified or just worried about something they don't understand.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    what, no DNA sample, too?


  20. kain preacher


    If this goes through can't the plod request the entire data base ?

  21. RW

    @ EnricoSuarve

    "How hard is it to know who you are employing? If your staff retention is really so poor that this is impossible then you have a larger problem than not being able to identify people."

    And that problem has two horns (just like any well-bred dilemma): bad pay and bad working conditions. You show me an organization with high staff turnover and I'll show you an orgnanization with (a) sub-human pay levels (b) very probably excessive management pay levels and (c) working conditions and management attitudes that far transcend the worst that Dickens wrote about.

    It's not easy motivating people in such jobs, but it's not impossible if you remember that they are humans too, not just meat-robots.

  22. DR

    @ enrico

    "How hard is it to know who you are employing? If your staff retention is really so poor that this is impossible then you have a larger problem than not being able to identify people"

    Ever worked as a cleaner?

    I used to work as a school cleaner, whilst I was in school, turnover in such jobs is high because the pay is poor and the conditions are , well dirty. -it's not a fun job.

    turn over is likely high because there aren't a lot of career cleaners, most people take on cleaning jobs because they are either just out of work and need a job, just really need a job, need a part time job to fit around education/kids etc...

    nobody takes a cleaning job because they really love the smell of bleach, it's almost always a last resort, and thus not a job that anyone really intends to stay in too long.

  23. John Smith Gold badge

    @Richard, @ kain preacher

    "What is needed is very simple - a human security person, checking photos on company ID card"

    You have remebered that at least one batch of security guards at a Government department (MoD?) turned out to illegals with no valid work permit? And of course that would be another NPE (Non Productive Employee. A fair term for some managers as well) they'd have to pay.

    "If this goes through can't the plod request the entire data base ?"

    Not if the IPS bags it first. With NIR implementation costs rising they are looking for any way to save money.

  24. Graham Marsden


    > What they are basically saying is - "we care so little about who does the cleaning we couldn't identify them if we tried, "

    Yeah, well they all look alike, don't they...

    Seriously, though, I too, find myself in the unexpected position of agreeing with RMT strike action!

  25. EnricoSuarve

    @RW & DR

    RW - exactly what I was alluding to in my post, treat your staff like crap , pay them peanuts and expect your chickens to come home some day...

    DR - Actually yes, for a few years while I was in college (the hours fit my studies great). I admit that it wasn't the job I would choose long term (I'm not a particularly tidy person so it was kind of unnatural!), but there were several people who worked there who had been doing it for years and saw nothing wrong with it as a long term job (neither do I - just not for me). The bank & agency I worked for treated us well and the pay was OK so turnover was low, most of us stayed long enough to get well known and our supervisors would definitely have spotted Mohammed Nukem coming

    I stand by my conviction that high staff turnover nearly always equals poor pay and conditions - you pay the right wage and treat people well enough and you get to pick the ones who will stay. I know they exist - the cleaner at my present company has been there longer than most of the office staff; although she is one of the odd ones who genuinely likes cleaning, she's compulsive - it drives her husband nuts apparently

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wrong target?

    Local company had stuff go missing. Biometric entry/access system showed it was always the same cleaners in the building when things went missing. Cleaners fired, although no other evidence found. Stuff kept going missing, with a different set of cleaners being fingered. They got fired too.

    After a couple more rounds, turns out it was the security guard in charge of taking said prints who was making copies of the fingerprints and using them. He was discovered through old fashioned methods of physical surveillance.

    Which only goes to show that the technology doesn't solve the problem, it simply adds another layer of security theatre that allows people to waltz through and do what they want while using said technology to point the finger at someone else because machines are, fundamentally, very easy to fool.

    ps: the cleaners were never re-hired, or apologized to. The security guard was never charged, because doing so would have embarrassed the people involved. The incident was not reported to the press for similar reasons. No, I'm not saying which company this was at. The company is now bankrupt, and the people involved scattered to the four winds.

  27. Cortland Richmond

    The old song...

    Some one is whistling "Some day my prints will come."

    About that brainwave scan, Geordie; are you SURE the fingerprints were the PM's?

This topic is closed for new posts.