“We are human beings like you, we have families like you, we need rest like you, we need a living wage – we work minimum 10 hours a day to make ends meet. We deserve respect.”Magaly, cleaner and UVW striker]
This month cleaners at La Retraite Catholic Girls School in South London took two days of strike action against forced-through changes to their working hours that would lead to many losing their jobs.
Over 120 students, parents and members of the local community signed a petition demanding justice for the cleaners, whilst the school management shamefully attempted to divert support for the valiant strikers who are standing together despite the sacking of one cleaner and suspension of three others.
Students were particularly keen to sign the petition when the daughter of a cleaner informed them the proposed change in the timetable would mean that her mum wouldn’t get home until 9pm.
“We ask the school to show some empathy, “ said Magaly, a striking cleaner who has worked at the school for 13 years. UVW member and striking cleaner. “We are human beings like you, we have families like you, we need rest like you, we need a living wage – we work minimum 10 hours a day to make ends meet. We deserve respect,” she told the crowd at the picket line on the first day of the strike.
The cleaners are also demanding the reinstatement of their colleague, Patricia – a 21 year old Spanish national – who was fired without due process or right of appeal.
Patricia told the picket line “I feel my sacking was trade union victimisation.We are only asking for respect because we are human beings, and we won’t give up the fight!”
UVW has filed an application for interim relief with the Employment Tribunal on Patricia’s behalf.
Three other UVW member cleaners, including Patricia’s mum, were suspended for several days, and UVW has launched legal proceedings in response, through the independent labour relations body Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), on grounds of trade union victimisation.
Plans of strike action in June were called off after a proposal to avoid redundancies was agreed to, however Dominic Malins reneged on this proposal. This week in a clear move to undermine the growing community support and lambast the cleaners, director of learning business and operations Paul Steward sent a defamatory letter to all parents denouncing student support for the strike and publicly accusing the strikers of intimidating staff.
Molly, UVW organiser supporting the cleaners stated: “The cleaners had proposed that a small group of them who can’t work the new times of 5pm-7pm remain working at their current times of 3.30pm-5.30pm or latest 4pm-6pm. Even though this would only mean a small number of cleaners starting 1-1.5 hours before the rest, Dominic Malins, has refused to allow this to happen. The cleaners had no option but to walk out of their jobs in July.”
She continued: “Two cleaners strikes in three years, says everything you need to know about the school and its head, Dominic Malins. The community clearly agrees the cleaners deserve respect, consideration and support of all those they have been looking after for so many year”
Day 1 of the cleaners’ strike also coincided with National Education Union (NEU) teachers industrial action, with some NEU representatives and local councillors from Lambeth council coming down to the picket line to show support and chat with the strikers.
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.
The cleaners are going to keep fighting. Support these brave workers!