On 4-5 June 17 cleaners at Ark’s Globe Academy, just south of the Elephant and Castle in Southwark, South London, walked out over unpaid and underpaid wages.
The workers are members of the small, radical, United Voices of the World (UVW) union.
Their employer, the cleaning company Ridgecrest, seems to have now addressed some of the issues of money owed. Nevertheless some of these badly paid workers had faced the threat of eviction for non-payment of rent as a result of not being paid properly and on time.
The workers are now fighting for the London Living Wage, which would represent a significant wage hike. Ridgecrest wants the workers to break with UVW and has even offered to provide adequate PPE if they do so!
UVW is taking the company to an Employment Tribunal on the grounds of union-busting.
The union is also taking court action against the company on the grounds of indirect race discrimination. All the cleaners are from BAME communities and some are migrants. This court case is being conducted together with similar groups of workers at the Ministry of Justice and Royal Parks.
The workers also intend to ballot for industrial action to win the London Living Wage, occupational sick pay, union recognition and a Health and Safety committee.
Despite the fact that there are a lot of National Education Union (NEU) members in the Academy, there is no NEU rep at the school.
The Covid emergency has underlined what an important role cleaners play in schools and other workplaces. This dispute underlines the need for all contracted out workers to be brought in-house, with union recognition, job security and union-negotiated rates of pay.