Unions slam plans to sack low-paid Derbyshire ‘dinner ladies’ who do not sign new reduced hours contracts

School dinner
School dinner

School catering staff who do not accept a reduced hours contract will have their employment terminated within four months, it has been revealed.

This comes just weeks after two trade unions, GMB and UNISON, pledged to fight on behalf of nearly 1,000 dinner staff after Derbyshire County Council unveiled plans to reduce their hours by eight per cent to cut costs and keep up with private firms.

The unions called the plans “worrying” and “another kick in the teeth” for a workforce which is largely female and are among the lowest paid out of the thousands paid by the county council.

These plans, which were leaked to the Local Democracy Reporting Service in July, state that catering staff – or dinner ladies as they often called – currently working 37 hours a week would earn around £97 less each month; and those working 30 hours would earn almost £80 less.

Now, new details of the fallout have been leaked to the public.

Trade unions and staff who do not wish to accept the reduced hours contract will meet with the county council in the week commencing November 5.

An issue notice of dismissal and an “offer of re-engagement” will be served to staff on November 19 who have not accepted by October 19.

After this, staff will have an opportunity to accept the “offer of re-engagement” with appeals against dismissal taking place from December through to January.

Finally, on February 18, 2019, staff who have not accepted the reduced hours contract will have their employment “terminated”.

The plans affect 952 school catering staff in total.

The union UNISON has stated that some staff will have to turn to food banks for help if the reduced hours contracts are brought in.

It also claimed that some members of staff were in tears at the proposals and that “they are wanting to fight this and take it all the way if the council don’t reconsider”.

A spokesperson for Derbyshire County Council reiterated its previous statements on the issue, saying: “We are consulting with our primary school meals staff over possible small reductions in the number of hours they are employed for.

“Like many of our services we need to find budget savings and unfortunately this may mean staff working slightly less hours in the future than they do now. We do not believe that these small cuts in hours will affect the quality of the meals our staff produce.

“The majority of our primary catering staff won’t be losing eight per cent of their working time and some staff will see no reduction.

“Schools can choose who they use to do their school meals and our catering service needs to make sure that it covers its costs so that it can compete with the private sector. Making decisions about staff working fewer hours are not decisions that we take lightly.

“We are continuing to talk to the trade unions about the proposals.”

Eddie Bisknell , Local Democracy Reporting Service