UVW members outside Blackheath Prep school

08.05.2024 / Press releases /

Cleaners at private school in South London to strike over poverty pay

  • Cleaners at Blackheath Prep return a 100% yes vote for strike action.
  • Blackheath Prep, a private school and nursery, charges in excess of £15,000 per year per pupil.
  • The cleaners, who are majority migrant workers and members of United Voices of the World (UVW), earn £11.44 per hour.
  • Contractor, Westgate Cleaning Services, have refused the cleaners demands for improved terms and conditions including the London Living Wage of £13.15 per hour.

The cleaners at Blackheath Prep today returned a unanimous yes vote to take strike action for improved terms and conditions at the private school in South East London.

The migrant workers from Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Spain and Colombia who clean the school for the wealthy are struggling to put food on the table with a salary of £11.44 per hour. Meanwhile Blackheath Prep charges over £15,000 per year per pupil.

UVW contacted both Westgate Cleaning Services and Blackheath Prep on 7 March 2024 in order to negotiate the following demands: a call for the London Living Wage, the same sick leave as directly employed staff, a paid 30-minute lunch break for shifts of six hours or more and the same contracts for all cleaners regardless of their start dates. At present, new cleaners are being offered inferior terms and conditions when they join.

Following repeated refusals to agree to these demands, the cleaners instructed their union to ballot them for strike action.

Santa Pérez, Dominican cleaner at Blackheath Prep and UVW member said: 

“I’m overcome with emotion and glad about the results of the strike ballot. I am ready to strike because our demands are fair. We are going to strike because we need a pay rise. As a single mum with four small kids I find it near impossible to make ends meet on such a low salary. We’ve been asking for the London Living Wage (LLW) for sometime now, but it’s been denied to us. So the time has come to do something about it. I’m not scared.”

Judit Morales, Ecuadorian cleaner at Blackheath Prep and UVW member said:

“We are not being paid the LLW, and we don’t get sick pay although we are highly exposed to diseases as school cleaners. We end up working while sick because we don’t get paid if we need to take time off. Migrant cleaners face exploitation because we don’t know our rights or speak English fluently. Voting to go on strike wasn’t an easy choice, but change is overdue and I feel we are being supported by a community in UVW that is there for us. We need to be seen and respected.”

Petros Elia, UVW general secretary, said:

“Blackheath are morally obliged to meet our members’ demands and they can more than afford to do so. If they don’t, the UVW will support them to strike for as long as is necessary. Blackheath’s decision to outsource their cleaners and only provide their contractor with enough money to pay them poverty wages is reprehensible and we will hold them to account and ensure they do right by our members. Sooner or later victory will come. Let us hope that can be achieved with common sense and without the need for industrial action.”

Strike dates will be announced in the coming weeks.

For further information contact the UVW comms team.

Isabel: 07706 987443
Cristina: 07548 759340
Jim: 07749 765264


About UVW

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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