Kitchen staff at Colfe’s School, one of London’s oldest schools, will strike for seven days this autumn after they had been underpaid by an estimated £5,000 each over the last decade.

Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said that its five members, employed by Reading-based CH &Co Catering Ltd, are angry that they have been ‘cheated’ out of thousands of pounds and are striking to get their back pay reinstated.

They will strike for 48 hours starting 23 September, followed by a 72 hour strike from 30 September and a further 48 hour stoppage from 7 October. All strikes will start at 00:01.

Colfe's School is a co-educational independent day school in Horn Park, Greenwich. The current annual fees range between £13,100 and £17,600. Its alumni include thriller writer Eric Ambler and author of Tarka the Otter Henry Williamson.

Unite contrasted the pay of the staff – the London Living Wage of £10.55 an hour – with the fees paid to attend the school whose lineage stretches back to the 16th century.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “The kitchen is run by a private company CH & Co Catering.  We have discovered that the company has been underpaying staff by two weeks per year for at least 10 years.

“Our members are angry that they been cheated continuously of their rightful pay over the past decade. These long-serving and dedicated kitchen staff have been underpaid by an estimated £5,000 plus for each individual over that time.

“In addition, the company has now proposed to reduce the number of weeks it pays the kitchen staff by a further two weeks per year from 42 to 40. They work 20 hours a week.

“This is a common method used by private companies to cut costs - with our members having to suffer a pay cut so that the management can make even more profits.

“CH & Co Catering Limited should pay back the money our members are owed over the years and remove the threat of further cuts.

“Ultimately, the best way to resolve this dispute, which will have grave reputational damage to this school, is that the catering service should be brought back in-house.

“There is a sour taste in the mouth between the low wages that our members receive and the high fees that are paid to attend this elite institution.”

The school’s website says: “Colfe’s is one of the oldest schools in London. Originally established by John Glyn in 1574, the school was re-founded in 1652 by the Reverend Abraham Colfe, Vicar of Lewisham.”


Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.