Ealing Borough School Catering Staff To Be Paid Living Wage

Council had been branded a disgrace for low pay of canteen workers

Michael Milne is fighting for the correct pay for hundreds of colleagues
Michael Milne campaigned for pay for hundreds of colleagues

May 13, 2021

A campaign to force Ealing Council to pay the London Living Wage (LLW) to catering staff at schools in the borough appears to have succeeded.

The authority was described as a disgrace by staff, three hundred of whom were surviving on the minimum wage despite Ealing being an accredited living wage employer.

LLW is currently £10.85, while minimum wage, before it was raised earlier this year was £8.72 an hour. It is now £8.91.

55-year-old Michael Milne, an assistant cook from Hanwell, who is paid the standard paid minimum wage under the contract for Ealing Council, had called for the workers to be paid LLW or have the council’s accreditation revoked. Mr Milne believes the council saved £1.5million over eight years by employing workers at the lower rate.

The council has been a member of the Living Wage Foundation since 2013 but this only obliged it to pay the higher rates to staff directly employed. It was required to have a plan to bring contracted staff’s pay up to the standard but, after eight years, nothing had been done.

However, now the council has announced that under new contracts due to be in place this August catering staff will be paid the LLW. The contract is currently run by Harrison Catering for around 55 schools in Ealing borough, but a new provider, ISS Education, will be taking over.

In a letter to the local branch of the union Unison on 5 May, the then council leader Julian Bell blamed the low rises in funding from the government for free school meals on the failure to pay the LLW but acknowledged that ‘progress towards paying catering staff the living wage they deserve has been too slow’.

Funding has now been identified which will mean that all staff will receive the uplift when the new contract begins. The increase will apply to all contracted workers, not just catering staff, and Cllr Bell stated that steps were being take to identify anybody working for the council on a contract who was not being paid the LLW.

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