UPDATE: Sheffield schools strikes suspended after meeting organised

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Staff at four Sheffield schools are set to strike tomorrow in a dispute over payment of the ‘living wage’.

Dinner ladies and catering staff at Newfield School in Norton Lees along with cleaners and maintenance staff at Bradfield School, Silverdale and special educational needs school Seven Hills will strike.

They will picket outside of schools - except Seven Hills - from 7.30am, unless an 11th hour meeting with Sheffield Council can be arranged.

Staff will then march to the Town Hall for 1.30pm before asking questions at Sheffield Council’s full council meeting from the public gallery.

The industrial action has been organised by GMB, which argues that PFI contractors Vinci and Taylor Shaw at those schools do not pay the ‘living wage’.

Vinci is used by Bradfield, Seven Hills and Silverdale for cleaning and maintenance and Taylor Shaw is used by Newfield for catering.

GMB members were balloted on strike action, which 100 per cent of respondends agreed to, the union said.

They have also argued that the contracts were chosen by Sheffield Council when they were tendered and are demanding a meeting with the authority.

GMB regional officer for Sheffield Peter Davies said: “It’s Sheffield Council’s policy to use the living wage but they chose to go with the non-living wage contract.

“It is unfair that every other school in Sheffield pays its staff and contractors the living wage but this group of schools do not.

“We want the council to agree to a meeting between themselves, Vinci and Taylor Shaw. At that point, we will suspend the strike.”

About 20 staff are thought to be affected.

Sheffield Council, Vinci and Taylor Shaw have been contacted for comment.

UPDATE: Sheffield councillor Ben Curran, cabinet member for resources at the authority, said: “The Living Wage is an important tool in boosting the living standards of local families and tackling poverty. The council pays its staff the Living Wage and we actively encourage our suppliers to pay it. The council’s school catering contract with Taylor Shaw, for example, pays the Living Wage.

“Unfortunately, this is not a council contract so is beyond our immediate sphere of control. We’ve done everything we can to influence this case, including speaking to Vinci and writing to the schools involved.

“It saddens me that it’s got to this stage. Strike action isn’t easy for anyone and is always an option of last resort.

“I am hoping to pull together a meeting with all relevant parties to work towards a solution.”

UPDATE: The strike action has been suspended after Sheffield Council, Vinci and Taylor Shaw agreed to meet the union.

Peter Davies said: “We have now received confirmation from Sheffield City Council that they are now arranging an urgent meeting between Vinci, Taylor Shaw, the Cabinet members responsible for finance and education, the Council contracts managers and the GMB.

“Talks will commence week commencing Feb 15th and focus on an offer to resolve the dispute.”