Cleaners at La Retraite Roman Catholic Girls' School in South London have been left with no choice but to take the first strike action in the school's 140 year history in order to win Justice, Equality and Dignity.
They have explored every avenue with La Retraite and their private contractor Ecocleen to try and avoid this action, but their attempts have been to no avail. La Retraite has even gone as far as to block all e-mails from the cleaners' union UVW.
That's why the cleaners feel they have no choice but to strike. And in Biblical style, they will strike for 40 days and 40 nights until their demands for Justice and Equality are met.
What exactly are the cleaner's asking for?
1) Re-payment of unlawfully withheld wages
Many of the cleaners refused to work for a period of around 4 weeks after their concerns around COVID-19 safety were ignored and their employer refused to carry out a risk assessment despite their lawful obligation to do so and despite the shocking spike in death rates and infection rates following the outbreak of the second variant of COVID-19 which resulted in several of the cleaners getting infected and ill. Following the cleaners lawful refusal to work their health and safety demands were eventually agreed to. However, their wages were unlawfully withheld which has plunged some of the cleaners - who already live on the breadline - into extreme poverty and hardship.
The cleaners are taking their employer to court to recover this money.
2) Payment of the London Living Wage (LLW) of £10.85 per hour
The cleaners currently only receive the poverty wage of £8.75 per hour. The LLW has been promised following a campaign by the cleaners but La Retraite has refused to confirm when they will start paying it from.
3) An improved sick pay scheme in line with the rest of La Retraite
Unlike La Retraite staff who get a full pay sick pay scheme, the cleaners re only offered Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) in some cases which is only £19.17 per day from the 4th consecutive day of illness i.e they receive no money for the first 3 days. And in other cases they don't even receive SSP and get no money at all when ill and have to rely on Universal Credit which takes weeks to process and will provide even less than SSP.
All they are asking for is the same sick pay scheme as the rest of La Retraite.
4) No reduction in their working hours
The cleaners are normally only paid for 46 weeks per year unlike other La Retraite staff who are paid for the full 52 weeks of the year. However, rather than increasing the cleaners pay to cover the full 52 weeks of the year La Retraite has sought to reduce the cleaners working year by 3 weeks. This is not only a 3 week loss of pay for the cleaners but will also reduce the amount that La Retraite is cleaned, which in the middle of a pandemic can only be described as reckless.
4) Recognition of the trade union UVW
The cleaners are currently denied the right to collectively bargain. All they are asking for is a voice at work but their request for recognition has been refused. They are taking their employer to court over this as well.
5) To be treated with Justice and as Equals
On La Retriate's website they state the following:
Our Catholic Ethos in Practise
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God' (Micah 6:8)
To Act Justly — We believe in treating everyone equally and with justice. Jesus was just in his dealing with the Jews and the Gentiles, and in this school, we strive to follow Jesus' example.
However, many of the cleaners have reported feeling that they are discriminated against, treated second class, and like the dirt they clean.
What you can do to help?
In order to ensure the cleaners are able to take as much strike action as is necessary to make their voices heard and to win the Justice and Equality they will need a healthy strike fund to sustain them
That's where you come in. Please donate whatever you can, because every donation, no matter how big or small, makes the world of difference.