Protest over proposals that could leave school meals staff with uncertain future

Union members held a noisy protest as councillors met to discuss plans that could lead to the closure of a centralised school meals kitchen in Barnsley.

Wednesday, 29th May 2019, 1:48 pm
Updated Wednesday, 29th May 2019, 2:30 pm
Recipe for conflict: Barnsley Council is considering plans to shut its school meals service

Barnsley Council runs the service to supply meals to dozens of schools in the borough but some have decided to use private contractors instead, raising questions over whether a small service will run.

According to Unison, representing 220 workers employed there, consultants employed by the council recommended investing some money in a new management system and then continuing the service on a not-for-profit basis.

However, council officials have recommended scrapping the whole service instead, they said, leaving all schools to then find alternative meal providers.

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Staff currently employed there would see their jobs, or terms and conditions, at risk if that happened, said Unison area organiser Jordan Stapleton.

They gathered outside Barnsley Town Hall to lobby councillors attending a meeting of the ruling Cabinet, where the proposal had been intended to be discussed.

But that has now been postponed to a meeting in June, though councillors were understood to be discussing the issue in private session.

Mr Stapleton said: “Contractors say the high number of free school meals in Barnsley make it difficult for them to make a profit, so they are reluctant to take contracts on.”

Barnsley Council has insisted that any change would not leave children without a school meals service and has expressed disappointment that Unison made negotiations public, before the dialogue had reached a conclusion.