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Highgate Wood School cleaners' strike: Outsourced staff walk out and plan further action in living wage fight

PUBLISHED: 14:20 22 November 2019 | UPDATED: 16:29 22 November 2019

Striking cleaning staff and supporters outside of Highgate Wood School. Picture: CAIWU

Striking cleaning staff and supporters outside of Highgate Wood School. Picture: CAIWU

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Cleaners at Highgate Wood School are locked in a dispute with the contractor who employs them over its refusal to pay them the London Living Wage.

Striking cleaning staff and supporters outside of Highgate Wood School. Picture: CAIWUStriking cleaning staff and supporters outside of Highgate Wood School. Picture: CAIWU

The cleaning staff, who are employed by company the Lakethorne Group rather than the school themselves, walked out on strike just before a parents evening at the school at 4pm on November 12,

The workers, who are members of the Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers Union (CAIWU), have this week announced that they will be striking again on Tuesday December 10.

A spokesperson for the CAIWU said the strikes aim was "primarily aimed at securing the London Living Wage", but that members had also voted to strike over Lakethorne's pay regime for "special duties", alleged failures "to provide adequate materials" or to "equalise pay and annual leave entitlements". The cleaners also claim there has been "mismanagement" of working schedules.

The trade union told this newspaper that the school had tried to set up a meeting between the contractor and the workers to discuss the issues, but the Lakethorne Group had yet to agree to this.

Bruce Coker from the local CAIWU branch said: "They have been campaigning for six months for the London Living Wage but the employer has been refusing to discuss it.

"The school are kind of stuck in the middle."

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A spokesperson for the Lakethorne Group said: "We are continuing to work closely with our employees in order to find a solution to the ongoing pay discussions. We are hopeful we will be able to work together to find a mutually acceptable position in the near future."

Highgate Wood School's headteacher Patrick Cozier said: "We are actively trying to find an amicable and swift resolution to this matter that works for the cleaners and all involved.

"We're seeking to sit down round a table with the cleaners' representatives and Lakethorne, as well as ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), as a matter of urgency."

The London Living Wage is currently set at £10.75 an hour - it is independently set by the Living Wage Foundation.

It is understood that the Lakethorne Group has made two offers to the workers thus far, but neither have been accepted and that the "every effort" is being made by the school to facilitate a resolution.

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