Over the last two weeks it has been brought to the attention of the Schools Committee that some catering companies may be trying to work around Cabinet advice in relation to school staff not being furloughed.
This is due to the fact that catering contracts /services already have the appropriate funding for the duration of the contract, therefore, the companies are not suffering any financial detriment.
It has been brought to our attention that Cabinet Office advice is causing a great deal of confusion and resistance from the private sector, who in turn appear to be reluctant to maintain the wages of our members based at home, if their schools are closed, thus potentially affecting profits.
The situation is further compounded by some catering companies trying to furlough staff at 80% and then assuming schools, academies and MATs top the extra 20%, this is resulting in disputes which UNISON have been made aware of.
The whole situation regarding Cabinet Office advice comes into question: is it necessary to furlough school staff and are catering firms trying to protect their profits? This question about in house service/council services being treated differently to the private sector is also questionable.
Cath Baggaley, Chair of the North West Schools Committee states:
"This is a growing problem which raises a number of questions: namely do catering staff have to be furloughed, are council run and in house services being treated differently and are some catering companies trying to preserve their profit margins?
We urgently need clarity from the DfE on this issue and have asked national UNISON colleagues to raise this as a matter of urgency- we need to ensure companies are not making any profits out of the current crises."
The DfE have said further guidance on furloughing in education is on its way in the next few days so we will be looking at that to see if it addresses this issue.
UNISON NW Schools Forum