School catering staff face losing hundreds of pounds a month, says UNISON

Catering firm Dolce must talk with UNISON

More than 2,000 school meals staff face having their hours and pay cut at a leading catering firm, which could leave many struggling to make ends meet, says UNISON today (Wednesday).

The union is demanding urgent talks with the company, Dolce School Catering, after employees based in schools in the North West, Yorkshire & Humberside, the West Midlands and the East of England learned of changes to their contracts just days before the half-term break. As a result, some could lose more than £300 a month, says UNISON.

The catering staff have been told their working hours and wages will be reduced by up to two fifths (40%) from next week and some will be moved to zero-hours contracts, says UNISON.

One kitchen worker has been told her hours are being cut from 27.5 a week down to 17.2, a reduction of more than 40 hours a month.

Another described how the changes would cost her £325 each month in lost wages. She said she’d been threatened with the sack unless she accepted a new contract.

The company has blamed the pandemic for the cuts, but enquiries by UNISON have shown no evidence that headteachers have reduced the amounts paid to the company or ended any contracts.

Many of the schools affected have told UNISON there’s been no significant reduction in demand for school meals.

The union is calling for an immediate discussion with Dolce about the lack of a proper consultation process, as well as a full explanation about why the cuts are being made.

UNISON head of education Jon Richards said: “The pandemic has had an impact on companies across the UK, but there’s no excuse for failing to treat staff fairly.

“The catering staff received letters just before half-term and they’ve had barely any time to think about these huge changes. Most have been left wondering whether they’ll be able to pay the bills or put food on the table.

“Cutting the wages of a low-paid, mainly female workforce will do nothing to help the economic recovery.

“This profitable company has failed to give any good reason why it plans to treat hardworking staff in such a callous way. Dolce’s certainly not offered to refund schools any money from the savings it plans to make.

“Dolce must ensure no school children or any staff suffer because of these changes. Many headteachers have said they’re appalled at the way valued staff are being treated.”

Notes to editors:
– 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 both the public and private sectors.

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