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04.07.2023 / Press releases /

Outsourced cleaners at La Retraite Roman Catholic Girls’ School return to the picket line

  • Outsourced cleaners at La Retraite school in south London school 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. Many have worked at the school for several years 
  • Consultations with the employer have broken down. One UVW member has been dismissed. Three other UVW members were suspended, we believe, because of their trade union activities, with their suspensions lifted days later due to union pressure. 

The outsourced cleaners at La Retraite Roman Catholic Girls’ School in south London are returning to the picket line on 5 and 7 July, for the second time in three years, alongside striking NEU teachers.

The striking cleaners are demanding that the school withdraw plans to change their working hours that would lead to several cleaners losing their jobs. They are further demanding the reinstatement of a cleaner, Patricia – a 21 year old Spanish national – who was fired without due process or right of appeal. UVW has filed an application for interim relief with the Employment Tribunal on her behalf. 

Three other cleaners were suspended which UVW has launched legal proceedings in response to alleging trade union victimisation.  

The low-paid and migrant cleaners had called off the planned strikes they had planned in June after a proposal to avoid redundancies was agreed to. The school later reneged upon this agreement. 

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. 

Patricia Medina Gallego, sacked cleaner at the La Retraite Roman Catholic Girls School and UVW member:

“I’m fighting for the many injustices committed against me for being a trade union member and I believe this is trade union victimisation. I have felt humiliated as they fired me with no reason, arguing there were many complaints against me, which I have never been provided with any examples or evidence for. I had an anxiety attack and they didn’t even call a doctor! So I’m simply going to fight for my rights, against injustice, for me and for my colleagues.”

Roberto Hernandez Diaz, suspended cleaner at the La Retraite Roman Catholic Girls School and UVW member:  “We have been humiliated because of unfounded accusations against us and we believe this (their suspension) is trade union victimisation. So we are going on strike to fight for our rights and we are going all the way because we want to be respected. The change in our timetables affects us all. I work from 5.00am until 5.30pm, if they change the hours, they extend my working day and I don’t get enough rest. So we are going all out.”

Sandra Luz Pérez Gallego, suspended cleaner at the La Retraite Roman Catholic Girls School and UVW member: “The change in hours is disastrous for me because I’m a single mother with two teenagers and I can’t finish work at 7pm to arrive home by 9pm having to get up the following morning at 4am to go to work. All of this has caused me a lot of anxiety and all I want is justice. I am fighting for our rights because we, the cleaners, are human beings, we are people, not the dirt we clean. We are entitled to fight for our rights.”

Montserrat Gallego Herida, suspended cleaner at the La Retraite Roman Catholic Girls School and UVW member: “This situation is having a huge impact on our lives, it has turned our world upside down. Some of us are having to take antidepressants because they have slandered us, they have criticised us, they’ve told our colleagues that we are confrontational and that we have bad manners and that we shout at people, when we’ve never done anything of the sort to our colleagues. So what we are going to do is fight for our rights. And we also want to clear our names because they have dragged them through the mud. We are going to strike for our rights.”

There will be photo and interview opportunities with workers during the pickets at the school gates.  For details, contact:

Cristina: 07548 759340 

E-mail: comms@uvwunion.org.uk 

Notes for editors

United Voices of the World is an anti-racist, member-led, direct action, campaigning trade union and we exist to support and empower the most vulnerable groups of precarious, low-paid and predominantly BAME and migrant workers in the UK. We fight the bosses through direct action on the streets and through the courts and demand that all members receive at least the London Living Wage, full pay, sick pay, dignity, equality and respect.

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