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18.06.2024 / Press releases /

Cleaners at Dulwich private school to ballot for strike action

  • Cleaners at James Allen’s Girls School (JAGs) in Dulwich prepare to ballot for strike action over changes to their terms and conditions days after strike action by teachers is averted. 
  • The migrant cleaners are members of United Voices of the World trade union (UVW).
  • The cleaners opposed changes to their terms and conditions made by JAGS contractor DB Services (DBS) by resorting to “working under protest.”
  • JAGs income is 25 million a year, with total net assets of £41m, 38 employees earning between 60-90K a year, several over £100k and one staff member earning between £200k to £250k
  • The proposed cuts will amount to approximately 20K in savings for JAGs with school fees for one student at £24k per year.           


Cleaners at prestigious James Allen’s Girls School 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 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.

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

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. JAGs have thus far refused to negotiate with UVW. 

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. On top of that, we don’t have sick pay. 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.”

Guido Fabián Guallichco, cleaner of 12 years at JAGs and UVW member: 

“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.”

Petros Elia, general secretary of UVW said:

“JAGs should be ashamed. The savings they make are a drop in the ocean compared to the school’s immense income and wealth. 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, and we will support them in getting the pay and terms they need and deserve. 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.” 

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.

For further information contact the UVW comms team.

Cristina: 07548 759340 

E-mail: comms@uvwunion.org.uk 

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