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22.06.2023 / News /

UVW cleaners at La Retraite school to strike alongside NEU teachers in early July

“Most of us cleaners would be forced to stop working at the school because many of us have other jobs we need to get to, which we need to pay our rent and food. So, it would be very difficult for us to make ends meet if the changes go ahead.”

Roberto Hernandez Diaz, cleaner at the La Retraite Roman Catholic Girls School and UVW member

The outsourced cleaners at La Retraite Roman Catholic Girls’ School in south London will return to the picket line for the second time in three years. They will take strike action on the 5 and 7 July alongside National Education Union (NEU) striking teachers. 

The action has been called following the school’s insistence at changing the cleaners’ working hours which will result in many of them facing the sack as they already have other jobs for the proposed new time. Many have worked at the school for several years.  

Roberto Hernández Diaz, cleaner at the La Retraite Roman Catholic Girls School and UVW member, says that “After many years working in that school in the schedule from 2.00pm to 5.30pm now the school wants to change our work schedule from 5.00pm to 7. Most of us cleaners would be forced to stop working at the school because many of us have other jobs we need to get to, which we need to pay our rent and food. So, it would be very difficult for us to make ends meet if the changes go ahead. Many of the cleaners have been working at the school for several years and I hope they show a little empathy and consideration for us, cleaners.”

Roberto Hernández Díaz casting his strike ballot

The low-paid and migrant cleaners had called off their planned June strike action after employers said counter proposals to disputed changes to working conditions would be produced imminently.

Cleaning contractor SSL agreed to come up with an alternative proposal which the school leadership vetoed despite initially agreeing to it. La Retraite management walked out of the last consultation meeting within minutes, refusing to consult further. 

For Montserrat Gallego, another cleaner at the La Retraite Roman Catholic Girls School and UVW member, the changes will be disastrous:   “I see the change of schedule as unfair because other jobs we have would be greatly affected for the simple reason that we have already adapted the work and our schedules to make it all manageable for us and our families. Most of us have minor children and a change like this would be disastrous for us. We have been at the school for years and we’ve adapted our lives and multiple jobs to make our children’s lives as comfortable as possible.”  

Montserrat Gallego and her daughter Patricia, also a cleaner at the school, who has been dismissed

Negotiations have broken down now and the cleaners will join forces with striking NEU teacher members on the 5 and 7 July. One of the UVW cleaners has been dismissed without being allowed to work their notice and three others suspended for, we believe, their active role in trade union activities in their workplace.

Petros Elia, UVW general secretary, said:  “Our members’ good will to put strike action on hold as negotiations progressed was met with cynical moves by both the cleaning contractor and the school leadership which appeared aimed at derailing strike action rather than resolving the dispute. The school management has shown its true colours and now our members will show their true indignation through strike action. There is no good reason to change the working hours of the cleaners particularly when it comes at the cost of their jobs and our members are more determined than ever to fight back and do so together with striking teachers.  And the decision by the cleaning contractor – which we can’t confirm wasn’t taken in conjunction with the School – to dismiss one of our members and suspend three others on flimsy trumped up charges, is an outrageous act of union busting that we will respond to robustly.”

The La Retraite cleaners are the eighth and latest group of UVW low-paid migrant workers to join the wave of strikes across the public and private sectors this summer. Seven other groups of UVW cleaners, carers and concierge workers held simultaneous and coordinated strike action across Greater London on the 13, 15 and 20 June.  

Other workplaces involved in the dispute include billion-pound global giants Amazon and publishing powerhouse Ogilvy, the prestigious London School of Economics and the private Streatham and Clapham High School in South London, the Department of Education, Sage Nursing home and West End Quays luxury flats.

If you want to support these brave workers, you can DONATE and or SHARE their strike  crowdfunder.

You can also JOIN their action group for updates on the campaign.and details of how to join a picket line. 

Get to know the workers and their demands here and SPREAD THE WORD using  #uvwstrikes! 

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