UNISONScotland www
This is our archive website that is no longer being updated.
For the new website please go to
Click here
Home News About us Join Us Contacts Help Resources Learning Links UNISON UK
Scotland in UNISON


Local Government Service Group Conference 15-16 June 2008

School meals transformation: Reward the workforce, says UNISON

Carol Ball
Carol Ball

UNISON will monitor the effect of school meals reform and take the opportunity to ensure the resources are there to develop and properly reward the school meals workforce.

The Scotland motion called on the union to campaign for adequate staffing, against unpaid overtime, and for pay and conditions to be properly evaluated. And learning reps are to be urged to assess whether training needs for staff are being met.

Scotland's Carol Ball told Conference, "In September 2004 UNISON launched its "Appetite for Life" campaign to improve the quality of school meals and in Scotland the Food for Good Charter for the NHS has just been updated and expanded as a Charter to cover the whole public sector including school meals.

"Why? Because UNISON supports the introduction of free school meals because we know the benefits to children of a hot, cooked from scratch, well balanced meal to enhance their general well being, achievement and contributing to the reduction in child poverty."

The UK Government's review of school meals in 2005 made recommendations many of which supported UNISON's aims starting with food based standards for all school food. The Scottish Government's introduction of a 6 month pilot of free school meals for children in P1 - P3 in 5 Local Authorities is also to be welcomed.

"However, as we all know there's no such thing as a free lunch", said Carol. "In order to take this policy forward it needs to be properly considered and resourced." "We must remember that these initiatives come on the back of 25 years erosion of the school meals service through under investment, compulsory competitive tendering and PFI", she added.

"This has led to lower pay levels, reduced hours and casual working contracts."

And as recent as a few weeks ago, Edinburgh City Council announced that as a result of budget cuts, several school kitchens would be closed (This service is provided by a direct service company), which has led to many school meals staff having their hours reduced as a consequence.

Glasgow City Council is also looking to provide its school meals service via an arms length company.

"How does this sit with the free school meals pilot which has seen a take up rate of 77%", asked Carol.

Branches should take the opportunity if they haven't already done so to engage with members working within the school meals area to ensure that issues affecting their pay and terms and conditions as a result of introducing these reforms can be addressed. This also offers the opportunity to recruit and organise these workers.

"The Scottish Local Government committee will monitor the effects through their Education Issues Group and report back on how we might take forward the issues raised", promised Carol.