Chef secures pay rise for 300 staff after exposing London Living Wage loophole

13 May 2021 by
Chef secures pay rise for 300 staff after exposing London Living Wage loophole

A chef has managed to secure a pay rise for his colleagues who provide school meals for primary school children in Ealing after discovering the council was failing to pay the London Living Wage, to which it had committed to back in 2013.

Despite signing up to the Living Wage programme in 2013, Ealing Council has been paying staff the National Minimum Wage (£8.91 an hour), instead of the pledged £10.85.

Chef Michael Milne first looked into the matter in December 2020 after reading about Ealing Council's commitment to the London Living Wage and realising he and his colleagues were not being paid the higher amount. He contacted the Living Wage Foundation and his union – Ealing Unison – who have undergone six months of negotiations with the council to secure the promised pay.

"We're pleased that we were proved right and Ealing Council has decided that we are owed the higher pay amount," Milne told The Caterer. "This is a massive difference for people. One colleague said the difference in wages is half her rent, while another said they were having to work two jobs and the increase in pay means they can drop down to one."

The majority of primary and secondary schools in the borough purchase their catering through the Ealing Schools Catering Consortium (ESCC), which is managed by Ealing's education contract services, and Harrison Catering Services is currently appointed under this contract. Unison said the council is obliged to ensure any third-party providers such as Harrison pay staff at least the London Living Wage.

The 21.7% pay rise will come into effect from 1 August, which coincides with the start of a new five-year catering contract where Harrison is replaced by ISS.

Councillor and leader of Ealing Council, Julian Bell, said in a letter to Unison seen by The Caterer: "Ealing's school meals staff have worked tirelessly, in difficult conditions, throughout the pandemic to ensure the continued provision of vital meals for the borough's children. They deserve a decent, living wage that reflects that commitment.

"This of course applies to all contracted workers, and we are currently reviewing all contracts awarded by the council to identify any other instances of LLW not being paid."

Cllr Yvonne Johnson, schools and children's services and deputy leader of Ealing Council, commented: "As a result of the council's negotiations with the 55 members of the Ealing School Catering Consortium (ESCC), agreement has been reached for all staff to be paid at least the London Living Wage from the start of the new ISS contract on 1 August 2021.

"While the council negotiates on behalf of the ESCC, it is for ESCC schools to fund the increase. The council has worked with schools to identify funding that will allow all catering staff currently paid below the LLW to receive an uplift."

Photo: Willy Barton/

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