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17.05.2024 / Press releases /

Cleaners declare ¡VICTORIA! at private school in South London

  • Cleaners at a private school in South London have won an inflation busting 15% pay rise, full pay sick pay and improved working conditions.
  • The cleaners, all migrant workers’, and members of United Voice of the World (UVW) union, work at Blackheath Prep, where fees are £18,000 a year. 
  • Bosses gave in to UVW demands after workers returned a unanimous vote to strike.

The migrant workers from Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Spain and Colombia who clean a private school in South London declared “VICTORIA” after winning their demands made in March this year, following successful negotiations with Blackheath Prep and the cleaning contractor Westgate.

The win comes almost four weeks after the cleaners, UVW members, returned a 100% Yes vote to strike and two weeks after they leafleted parents and cleaners about their struggle to put food on the table on the minimum wage of £11.44 per hour while Blackheath Prep school fees are up to £18,000 per year.

Last week representatives from the school for the wealthy in South London met with UVW officials alongside representatives from the contractor Westgate Cleaning to negotiate a settlement to the dispute. Strike action that was due to be called will now be averted. 

Petros Elia, UVW General secretary, accepted the deal today on behalf of the cleaners who voted unanimously for a 15% pay rise from today, 17 May, full pay sick pay, a paid 30-minute lunch break and the same, improved contracts for all cleaners regardless of their start dates.

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

“We never had sick pay before, this is a big win for us, thanks to our unity and the support of our union that had our back all the way. Full respect to my union. I was involved in the negotiations, and I told the bosses what we needed. It felt like facing a lion and now I feel so strong and powerful.”

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

“I am so happy for this win! This is not only a victory for us but also for other cleaners who come and work at the school. I am so happy with my union and what we have achieved together. The London Living Wage is important for me, a mother with four children. I will be able to do a bit better financially and now when I am sick I don’t have to worry about recovering or not being paid!”

Petros Elia, UVW General Secretary, said:

“This win is another example for workers all over the country to follow. Our members at Blackheath followed simple, tried and tested steps: make sure everyone joins the union, then make sure everyone votes to strike, then prepare for the fight of your lives. In this instance, before strike action was due to be called a negotiated deal was reached and our members will now have 15% more money per month going into their pockets, as well being able to take sick leave without loss of pay. The fight for full equality continues but today, we celebrate.”

For further information contact the UVW comms team.

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

E-mail: comms@uvwunion.org.uk 

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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