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18.06.2024 / News /

Cleaners at Dulwich private school ballot for strike action

“We are ready to strike because losing five weeks of work per year is deeply unfair… We can’t just find another job to make up for such a significant income loss, especially with scattered weeks off throughout the year.”

Gloria Chalaco, cleaner at JAGs and UVW member

Cleaners at prestigious James Allen’s Girls School (Jags) in Dulwich are preparing to vote on strike action after being informed by JAGs contractor DB Services of changes to their terms and conditions, and without entering into a consultation process.

The migrant workers, members of UVW, resorted to “working under protest” after being informed in May that changes to their working hours and contracts were due to take effect imminently. The workers say they have lost five weeks per year of paid work.

The decision by UVW members to instruct UVW to ballot them for strike action comes days after the National Education Union paused a teachers strike over pension schemes at JAGs. The cleaners strike ballot opens on 24 June and closes on 5 July 2024.

Gloria Chalaco, cleaner at JAGs and UVW member, said: “We are ready to strike because losing five weeks of work per year is deeply unfair. They didn’t consult us at all—they just started implementing cuts and changes, ignoring our voices. We can’t just find another job to make up for such a significant income loss, especially with scattered weeks off throughout the year. Our bills and rent don’t stop.”

The savings made by the proposed cuts amount to 20k a year for the Oxbridge feeder school, where a sizable chunk of the staff earn between 60-90K a year and at least one staff member, 200K – 250K. The savings they make are a drop in the ocean compared to the school’s immense income and wealth.

The cleaners demand no changes to contracts or cuts in hours, and pay to remain at £13.15 and increase every December in accordance with the London Living Wage. 

“We don’t have sick pay. – explained Gloria – When we get sick, we either work while ill or lose our pay. We demand changes, including sick pay. They don’t respect us, the cleaners, as people with the same needs and rights as everyone else, yet we ensure the environment is healthy and safe for the pupils.”

DBS responded to the cleaners demands by citing that sick pay is “economically unachievable” and future increases to the London Living wage was a commitment JAGs would need to make but JAGs have so far refused to negotiate with UVW, While DBS employs the cleaners, JAGS holds responsibility too. They decide where to allocate their vast fortune accumulated from the wealthy and their tax breaks.

Guido Fabián Guallichco, a cleaner of 12 years at JAGs and UVW member, said they group is united and determined to fight for their rights. “We are demanding our rights as workers because cleaners are treated as if we have no rights, as if we don’t matter. But we are workers like everyone else and we want our rights to be respected. We have been forced to make this decision to ballot for a strike in order to be heard. We are united and we are going to fight because if we accept this way of being treated today, there will be consequences later, both here for us and for all workers in the sector.”

JAGS students secure spots at prestigious universities like Oxbridge, setting them up for life, yet our cleaners must fight for basic guarantees like the London Living Wage and sick pay. Our members refuse to be invisible, you can support them in getting the pay and terms they need and deserve.

Donate to our support fund here >> and watch this space for updates on how to support their cause.

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