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24.06.2024 / News / /

Outsourced cleaners and caterers at Department for Education demand equality on the picket line

“Where is the money? I’m a single mum and I pay every single bill. This time I’m not going to stop!”

Elizete, cleaner at DfE and UVW member

Outsourced workers – cleaners and caterers– at the Department for Education (DfE) walked out of their jobs on 11 and 12 June 2024 for the second time in a year and demanded equality of terms and conditions with civil servants now!

Backed by other members of UVW as well as the big DfE family, from printers to security guards to lawyers, the strikers, most of them migrants, had a clear message for the government and its contractors; Backdate the London Living Wage of £13.15 to October 2023 (when it was first announced), and give us a proper sick pay scheme and annual leave in line with our office-based counterparts. ‘Where’s the money?’‘ they roared. ‘ISS, shame on you!’

Watch the strikers in action. ‘ISS, shame on you!’

The workers, who are outsourced to ISS UK Limited and are members of United Voices of the World (UVW), are sick and tired of being treated like second class workers.

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. “I come into work with temperature when I’m feeling ill, just to do my work, just to get paid so I can support myself,” Simona explained.

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 workers had already taken three days of strike action last summer as part of a mass walkout by UVW members demanding dignity, equality and respect. But the cleaning contractor, ISS UK Limited (ISS), has refused to negotiate despite numerous invitations from UVW. 

The workers vow this time they are not going to stop.

Fighting spirit and good moves!

The workers were joined at the picket line by comrades from other UVW sectors, such as Nelly who described how culture and design workers also endure similar poverty wages and poor conditions, and Jamie, a DfE lawyer who promised to rally his co-workers to try and end this injustice. The DfE’s workers fight is everybody’s fight!

Jamie and Nelly – solidarity from all corners

To support them, join the action group and/or donate to their strike fund.


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