ELEVEN school dinner ladies and men from Haggerston school in Hackney, east London, went on strike yesterday against poverty pay.
They were joined by over a hundred school students who flooded the gates in support. School teachers refused to cross the picket lines despite warnings from their own union, the NUT, that they should not join the action.
This compelled the school to close down and send all the pupils home for the day.
Other strike dates have been provisionally set for Friday the 13th of July and Monday 16th July in a rolling campaign to beat the school’s management and the company that employs the catering staff, Sodexho, and ensure that the workers get a decent pay rise so that they can afford to live.
Paul Fawcett, the T&G regional official, told News Line: ‘The strike involves 11 catering staff at Haggerston school. It is absolutely appalling the amount our members are paid. They are paid £4 an hour less than our counterparts in the other schools.
‘People have to earn at least £7.20 an hour, which is the London Living Wage, to escape poverty and the catering staff earn at least £2 an hour less than that!
‘The company that employs them, Sodexho, and the management of the school are in collusion to keep down pay, to keep low pay at the school. All public servants should work for the public sector and not private companies.
‘The company accused us of the economics of the mad house, but I am more concerned about the economics of our members’ houses.
‘Today the strike is absolutely solid and the teachers locally have really supported us and they are picketing today despite a formal complaint from the NUT leadership about the regional officer, myself, because I asked the teachers for support.’
Sue Keavy, a teacher at Haggerston school, spoke up about her support for the strike.
She said: ‘The catering staff are on poverty wages and they are not even looking for what Sodexho are paying in other schools in Hackney, they just want the London Living Wage and Sodexho are not willing to pay.
‘They should definitely be taken back in-house. Feeding children should not be for profit. The solidarity of the staff today is good.’
The school students joined in with their teachers and staff.
Unison reps also came down to join in with the picket. Mathew Waterfall, Unison branch secretary for Hackney local government, told News Line: ‘I support the action against poverty pay and I have come down to the school and it is great to see so many people out in support, including teachers.
‘The Unison leadership were the same as the NUT in actually discouraging our members from joining the T&G in solidarity!’