UNISON North West is today (Thursday) warning against plans by school caterer Dolce to cut the hours and pay of hundreds of kitchen staff in schools throughout the region.
Last week, school catering company Dolce contacted staff to announce changes to their employment contracts. These include cutting hours and pay by 20% and potentially staff to zero-hours contracts, which could leave many struggling to make ends meet.
Dolce provides catering services to schools across the North West including in Cumbria, Wirral, Blackpool, Wigan, Rochdale, Tameside, Trafford, Manchester and Bury.
UNISON has written to headteachers to express its worry about the potential effects of these cuts on Dolce’s ability to run a full catering service within schools in our region at this difficult time.
The company has blamed the pandemic for the cuts but enquiries by UNISON have shown that many head teachers are not reducing their contracts or payments to the company.
UNISON is concerned by the lack of robust consultation and is calling on Dolce School Catering to talk to the union to find a resolution before the drastic measures are put in place. The catering company plans to implement its plans- which will cause some to be more than £300 a month worse off- on 1 November.
The union has advised its members in the North West not to agree to the cuts and to submit grievances to the company.
UNISON North West Schools Organiser Keith Bradley said: “School catering staff have put themselves at risk to ensure that schoolchildren remain well-fed throughout the pandemic. It is outrageous that Dolce would reward them by imposing a significant cut to hours and pay at short notice and without meaningful consultation.
“Whilst Dolce have cited reduction in demand for school meals and cuts to funding as the justification for their callous cuts, we understand that the company has fully funded contracts with many schools.
“According to Dolce’s recent accounts, they paid a whopping £138,000 in dividends to their owners. As the company is family-owned, these bumper payments all went to one family. All whilst proposing this callous cut to the income of the families pay cuts of 20% for the front-line staff who serve children their school meals.”
UNISON’s 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. They received letters just before half-term and have barely any time to think about huge changes that affect whether they can pay the bills or put food on the table.
“Cutting the wages of low-paid staff, mainly women, will do nothing to help the economic recovery. And we’ve seen nothing to explain why a profitable company is treating hard-working staff this way.
“Any cuts to catering teams will have a serious impact on the pupils, some of whom have their only hot meal of the day at school.
“Dolce must work with the union to ensure staff and children don’t suffer.”