Dinner ladies in call for strike action

18 February 2006
Dinner ladies in call for strike action

Dinner ladies in the London Borough of Hackney are threatening to strike in a row over pay and working conditions.

Catering staff at the council's 74 primary and secondary schools said that since Jamie Oliver's television series they have come under increased pressure to cook fresh, quality food instead of frozen - but without extra time, training or pay.

Cathy Stewart, a spokeswoman for the dinner ladies, said: "Since the Jamie Oliver programmes we have been under tremendous pressure to deliver top-notch nosh but at rock-bottom prices."

The T&G union has written to every school in the borough before deciding whether to take industrial action.

The staff have also demanded more money. A union spokesman said: "The sort of money they earn doesn't match what they deserve. In one of the most expensive capitals in Europe they are being asked to provide the catering service that millionaire Jamie Oliver thinks is right."

Compass Group division Scolarest and independent caterer Caterhouse run 24 of the borough's schools between them. A Caterhouse spokeswoman said: "We pay market rates, but if the borough wishes to make funds available to enable the establishment of a new pay structure, we would have no hesitation in passing this on to our staff."

A spokesman for Learning Trust, the outsourced body that runs Hackney council's catering service, said it was working closely with schools and catering staff to find a solution to the dispute.

By Tom Bill

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