Cleaners to strike for ‘living wage’

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Cleaners at a Sheffield academy are staging a one day strike on Wednesday – as part of their fight to earn a ‘living wage’.

The 10 women at Sheffield Park Academy on the Manor earn £6.32 an hour – just 1p above the national minimum wage.

The cleaners are to protest outside the Town Hall before putting questions to councillors.

Union GMB took up their case with Academy owners United Learning Trust earlier this year, calling on the group to pay the same wage as cleaners employed in local authority run schools, £7.45 an hour.

But over the summer ULT outsourced its cleaning contract to Ocean Contract Cleaning Ltd, based in Luton.

Since then Ocean has refused to discuss the issue.

GMB regional officer Peter Davies said 90 per cent of city schools paid cleaners £7.45, including many academies and trusts.

“Park under ULT is one of a handful of schools refusing to adopt the living wage and when we put pressure on them to change the policy, these jobs were outsourced to Ocean,” he said.

“At the time some staff were of the opinion that this was to avoid paying the living wage.

“Now Ocean, their new employer, won’t even discuss paying this rate of pay and are striving at every opportunity to get more and more from these workers for less and less.

“Many of these cleaners are mums of kids in the school and they absolutely incensed by how they are being treated – and we’re sure most of the community will feel the same way.

“ULT is supposed to be an organisation with a Christian ethos and a sense of moral purpose, but we have found many of the schools most resistant to paying the living wage are run by Catholic or Church of England dioceses,” Mr Davies added.

Sheffield Council adopted the £7.45 living wage as a policy objective for the city almost a year ago.

Since then following union pressure it has been adopted by companies such as Veolia, Amey and Norse.

The Park cleaners are to ask councillors to come off the sidelines and back their campaign at Wednesday’s full council meeting.

A spokesman for Sheffield Park Academy said: “This issue is clearly between the cleaning contractor Ocean and its employees and as such, the academy would not comment any further.”

Ocean refused to make any comment to The Star.