Unison Helps Secure 21.7% Pay Rise For Ealing Schools Catering Staff!

5th May 2021

Dear Members,

I’m writing to you today with some fantastic news! I’ve attached a letter I received today from Ealing Council leader Julian Bell.

In December 2020, Ealing Unison was approached by a member working in a school kitchen and we found out that the vast majority of the 300 staff who work under the Ealing schools catering contract in around 55 primary schools are paid below the London living wage of £10.85 an hour. This is despite the fact Ealing Council has been a living wage employer since 2013 who are obliged to ensure any third party providers such as Harrison pay you the staff at least the London living wage.

After 6 months of negotiations with Ealing Council, as well as writing to schools, councillors, MPs, the Mayor’s office, the living wage foundation and speaking with the media, Ealing Unison received confirmation yesterday from the Leader of the Council, Julian Bell, that all 300+ staff who work to deliver school meals in Ealing maintained schools will receive a minimum of £10.85 an hour from 1st August 2021! This coincides with the start of the new 5 year catering contract.

The majority of the 300 staff under the contract currently earn the minimum wage. An increase to the London living wage (£10.85 an hour) from the national minimum wage (£8.91 an hour) is an hourly pay rise of £1.94 an hour. This is a 21.7% pay rise! And they all fully deserve it!

It also means that the 300 staff working under the Ealing Schools Catering contract will collectively earn an additional £1.5 million a year!

Let’s take an example of someone works 15 hours a week as a catering assistant and is currently paid £8.91 an hour. They earn £133.65 a week and £534.60 a month.

From 1st August 2021, this person will earn £10.85 an hour. £162.75 a week and £651 a month. This is an increase of £29.10 per week and £116.40 per month!

I am incredibly proud of what we have been able to help achieve as a collective for this staff group over the past 6 months. It has been a team effort and I’d like to thank the Ealing Unison branch, in particular our Branch Chair and Branch Secretary, for their support in the negotiations. As members, you are all part of this victory as well. We have strength through unity and numbers, so by being part of Unison you have helped to put wrong a huge injustice.

There is one person I would like to thank in particular. This member brought the matter to us last December and has worked tirelessly by writing to councillors and his local MP, as well as the living wage foundation, the mayor of London and submitting freedom of information requests to schools and Ealing Council all in aid of ensuring the living wage for all of his colleagues under the schools catering contract. He also approached the media and his activism is inspirational. Thank you.

I have a favour to ask. Please share this news with your colleagues and urge them to join UNISON. This case and the fact that we have been able to secure a 21.7% pay rise for around 300 staff (the majority of whom are low paid women with a BAME background) shows what we can achieve as a Trade Union movement. The more members we have, the stronger our voice becomes.

Please check out our website and share this with colleagues:


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Our campaign won’t stop here. There are still many other members and employees of private companies who provide public services across Ealing such as health and social care and cleaning who do not receive the London living wage. We will push forward to make sure that Ealing Council ensures all staff who provide public services in our borough get a fair wage, and that all staff who work in Ealing Schools earn at least £10.85 an hour.

If you know colleagues who earn less than the London living wage, ask them to contact us. And if you are a member who is unsure about what you earn, please do get in touch. We can help to put this right.

We are having further meetings with Ealing Council to discuss the precise contractual arrangements of the new catering contract and to continue to hold the council to account and work with them for fair terms and conditions of employment for all.

Feel free to get in touch if you want to talk about anything. This is great news, let’s shout it from the rooftops and encourage people to be part of Unison!

Unison LLW letter 050521