Cleaners in the United Voices of the World union at La Retraite Catholic girls’ school in south west London will strike for 40 days from 16 March, in what the union describes as “the longest school cleaners’ strike in history”.
The cleaners, who are employed by outsourced contractor Ecocleen, have faced cuts to their hours, as well as being low-paid, and denied contractual sick pay. Several cleaners have also recently been docked wages, after they exercised their right to refuse unsafe work under Section 44 of the 1996 Employment Rights Act.
The union estimates that 25% of cleaners at the school had Covid between December 2021 and January 2021. Despite this, neither the school nor Ecocleen carried out adequate risk assessments in consultation with the workers, leading to the Section 44 action.
A UVW statement said: “Members worked two-three hours a day, on minimum wage and all the other statutory terms and conditions. Workers joined UVW in the autumn of 2020, where six weeks of pressure brought their pay up to £10 an hour. However, the school also requested a decrease in cleaning hours — from 46 weeks a year to 43 weeks. This decrease in hours means they are still £150 worse off a year.
“We are demanding full pay sick pay and the London Living Wage. As the Covid-19 pandemic has proven over and over again, essential personnel such as cleaners are vital to keeping schools like La Retraite safe for teachers and children.
“Like all of our outsourcing disputes, we are demanding parity of terms and conditions with in-house support staff workers. It is wrong that our members, who are majority BAME and migrants, provide essential services to La Retraite but are ignored, mistreated and on worse terms and conditions then all the other staff they work alongside.”
• Strike fund here