Cleaners at £24,000 a year private school ballot over strike action

Cleaners at a £24,000 a year girls private school are preparing to vote on strike action over contract changes.

The ballot comes after cleaners from James Allen’s Girls School in East Dulwich Grove, were informed by their contractor, DB Services, of changes to terms and conditions in their contract without consultation.

One cleaner, Gloria Chalaco, 48, from East Dulwich said: “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.”

Ms Chalaco said the workers are also denied sick pay.

She said: “When we get sick, we either work while ill or lose our 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.”

The migrant workers – members of United Voices of the World (UVW) union – resorted to “working under protest” after being informed last month that changes to their working hours and contracts would take effect imminently. 

The cleaners demand no changes to contracts or cuts in hours and sick pay, for their wages to remain at £13.15 an hour and to increase in line with the London Living Wage each year. 

The cleaners strike ballot opens on June 24 and closes on July 5, 2024.

The savings made by the proposed cuts amount to £20,000 a year for the Oxbridge feeder school (Picture: Google Street view)

Guido Fabián Guallichico, 56, from Blackheath has been a cleaner at the private school for 12 years.

He said:  “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.” 

The savings made by the proposed cuts amount to £20,000 a year for the Oxbridge feeder school.

According to UVW, DB Services responded to the cleaners demands by saying that sick pay is “economically unachievable”. 

The cleaning contractors also reportedly told the union that future wage increases in line with the London Living wage was a commitment JAGs would need to make.

So far, UVW said JAGS has “refused to negotiate”. 

The decision to ballot for strike action comes days after a strike by JAGS teachers was paused by the National Education Union.

Roughly 50 teachers and some support staff staged strikes on May 22, June 5 and 6, over pay and changes to pension schemes.

Petros Elia, general secretary of UVW said: “JAGs should be ashamed. 

“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.”

A JAGS spokesman said: “The disputed employment arrangements are directly between the employer, DB Services, and their staff.

“We value everyone who contributes to life at JAGS and we are confident that DB Services and its staff can work together to find a constructive solution. If during the negotiations between the union and DB Services there is anything with which JAGS can assist, we will carefully consider any points raised.”

DB Services has been approached for comment.

Pictured top: James Allen’s Girls School in East Dulwich Grove (Picture: Google Street View)

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