A group of mainly Latin American cleaners at Ark Globe Academy in South London, part of the Ark Schools Academy network set up by billionaire hedge-fund managers Paul Marshall, Ian Wace and Arpad Busson, found themselves outsourced to a shambolic union busting cleaning company called Ridge Crest Cleaning.
For months Ridge Crest Cleaning had failed to pay many of the workers their wages in full, leaving some in rent arrears and many faced the threat of eviction and bailiff proceedings – then the Coronavirus pandemic hit. Not only did they find themselves without pay, they also found themselves without essential PPE, such as facemasks, and had not been consulted over any risk assessments or safety measures to protect them as they worked through the deadly pandemic.
After another botched pay packet the workers finally said enough was enough and walked out in a spontaneous 48-hour wildcat strike! The strike quickly got the attention of management who up until that point had been less than bothered about rectifying the outstanding pay issues. In a shocking turn of events Ridge Crest Cleaning management then proceeded to bribe the workers with PPE and the promise of an increase to the London Living Wage in the future if they left UVW and promised not to strike.
But with the union busting conversation caught on tape, and an investigation by Vice news quickly blowing the lid on the whole sorry affair, widespread public condemnation quickly ensued. The workers, supported by UVW, began to demand not only that their pay issues be rectified with immediate effect but that they receive the London Living Wage, full pay sick pay, union recognition, enhanced safety measures and be made direct employees of Ark Globe Academy!
With the threat of an official strike looming, Ridge Crest Cleaning and Ark Globe Academy management swiftly buckled and the workers won all of their demands, bar being made direct employees of the school. But these UVW heroes are going nowhere. They have vowed to fight on until all their demands are met. So watch this space, because you can be sure you’ll be hearing from them very soon!
“This victory will be celebrated but the fight continues for full equality. And Ark Globe Academy will not be forgiven for having forced the cleaners to get by on poverty pay and no proper sick pay for so long. And we will make sure that Ark holds their contractor to account for having flagrantly engaged in vile union busting antics with an express intent to “shut the union down” and literally force the cleaners to choose between their health or their human rights. We are very clear, we will not be going anywhere, not until these workers are brought in-house and Ark comes to the negotiating table”.
Petros Elia, a UVW Organiser
London Living Wage of £10.75 per hour
Full pay sick pay for all
Access to PPE for a safe work environment
Enhanced safety procedures devised and implemented in consultation with the workers
Enhanced annual leave