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09.05.2024 / News / /

Migrant cleaners at Department for Education to strike for equality in June

“No sick pay, too much work, no proper holiday cover. We feel we are treated with disdain, we are fed up and stressed but united in our resolve.”

Gloria Mancera, cleaner of 18 years service at DfE and UVW member

The cleaners at the Department for Education (DfE) have voted unanimously to strike again, returning a 100% yes vote, and will walk out of their jobs for the second time in a year on 11 and 12 June 2024. They took three days of strike action last summer as part of a mass strike by UVW members demanding dignity, equality and respect.

The cleaners, who are outsourced to ISS UK Limited and are members of United Voices of the World (UVW), demand parity of terms and conditions with civil servants. The mainly Black, brown and migrant cleaners are sick and tired of being treated like second class citizens. But the cleaning contractor, ISS UK Limited (ISS), has refused to negotiate despite numerous invitations from UVW. “In my 18 years as a cleaner at DfE I’ve never experienced such terrible treatment.”, says Gloria Mancera, who has been a cleaner of 18 years service at DfE. “No sick pay, too much work, no proper holiday cover”, We feel we are treated with disdain, we are fed up and stressed but united in our resolve,” she adds.

The cleaners are demanding the London Living Wage of £13.15 per hour backdated to when it was announced in October 2023. Helena Oduro-Afriyie, who has served at the DfE for cleaner of 18 years explains that “They are supposed to give us the London Living Wage, but they keep on postponing, postponing and it’s affecting us because we have to pay bills. The gas people are chasing us, electricity, water and everything. So in fact we are very desperate.”

Khadija Jalloh, who’s been a cleaner for 24 years at DfE adds: “They don’t pay us properly, you have to pay your rent, take care of your children, the bus pass is almost £25 for a week, you have to buy this, you have to buy that. How are you going to survive with that kind of money? So we are really desperate we’re ready to do anything. We’re ready to fight for our rights.”

Despite working in the DfE’s buildings, the cleaners get worse annual leave and sick pay entitlement than the civil service workers they clean-up after. Helena says she’s been “suffering from arthritis in my leg, I have doctors’ notes the company knows. I’m supposed to do less jobs, but they keep on putting me to where they like.” There has also been a considerable increase in workload over recent years due to cuts to staffing levels which is another issue of dispute.

The cleaners deserve equality of pay, terms and conditions and treatment. It is unconscionable that in 2024 a Government department is being run by a two-tier workforce. UVW is an anti-racist union and we will back the courageous DfE cleaners all the way through strike action and more, until they win what they need and deserve.

Get ready to join them on the picket line! Join the action group and/or donate to their strike fund.

The DFE cleaners are striking again!


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