Orchard Day Nursery must be saved, says UNISON

Staff, parents and children have been treated abominably

The owners of a Merseyside day nursery that closed without warning last weekend – leaving more than 50 staff jobless and the parents of more than 200 youngsters without childcare – must think again, says UNISON today (Wednesday).

Orchard Day Nursery in Huyton shut its doors at such short notice that many workers, children and parents only found out about the permanent closure via a notice fixed to the gates, the union says.

The nursery has since gone into insolvency. Its owners also operate a number of other nurseries across the north of England.

The first some staff and parents knew was when the company sent an email on Saturday, announcing the immediate closure. But many remained unaware until they turned up to work or arrived to drop off their children on Monday morning, says UNISON.

The shutdown chaos came just days after workers at the nursery took industrial action last week over pay.

The walkout took place after the company refused to pay qualified nursery workers more than the real living wage, which is £10.90 an hour.

UNISON said nursery bosses should be paying all employees at least this amount, with more experienced and qualified staff earning more.

The union believed it was close to an agreement on a boost to pay earlier this month. But the employer has had no contact with UNISON since the industrial action took place, despite the union’s plea for talks.

The closure and liquidation of the nursery has caused huge disruption for many parents who were unable to attend work, while staff have been left fearing for their futures, says UNISON.

UNISON head of education Mike Short said: “The employees and the families who use this nursery have been treated abominably.

“These dedicated employees provide a vital service to the community. They love their jobs but could be on more an hour in the local supermarket.

“Staff trusted to look after young children while their parents are at work should be earning significantly more. The government’s plan to improve childcare will never get off the ground if wages don’t improve.

“Uncompetitive rates of pay do nothing to keep nursery workers in the sector, nor encourage much-needed new recruits. Orchard Day was having problems holding onto experienced staff, issues that are being replicated across the country.

“But closing a service completely without prior warning because staff ask for higher pay is callous and unforgiveable. Children, parents and staff deserve far better.”

UNISON Knowsley branch organiser Karen Greer said: “It’s devastating for the local community to find that the nursery has closed at such short notice.

“The employer must reconsider and come to an agreement that can get staff and parents back to work. And most importantly, end the distress for the children who want to be back in a place they adore.

“Knowsley council will be working with the union to support those affected. The nursery owners should do the right thing, talk to staff and parents, and reopen the nursery.”

Notes to editors:
– The dispute began when workers at the nursery contacted UNISON last September because they were worried about low pay at the nursery, workplace stress, and issues around the retention of staff.
– Photos of staff and parents are available on request.
– The real living wage is a rate calculated according to what people need to make ends meet. It provides a benchmark for employers to ensure their staff earn a wage that meets the costs and pressures they face in their everyday lives. It’s currently £10.90 (£11.95 in London).
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

Media contacts:
Sam Doherty M: 07432 459759 E: s.doherty@unison.co.uk
Anthony Barnes M: 07834 864794 E: a.barnes@unison.co.uk