In July, a Derbyshire County Council report, leaked to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, showed that the authority was considering reducing the number of hours which catering staff are allowed to work by eight per cent.
This would see catering supervisors – or dinner ladies as they are often called – currently working 37 hours a week earning around £97 less each month; and those working 30 hours would earn almost £80 less.
The authority said that this is to ensure it can compete with private sector catering firms and said that the “small cuts”, if approved, would not impact on the quality of school meals.
There are 952 catering staff employed by the County Council.
GMB officer Lesley Waudby said: “The County Council have started a consultation to slash school staff catering hours and this could take as much as £100 a month out of local dinner ladies’ pay packets.”
“Worryingly, nobody at the County Council has even looked at the feasibility of delivering all of the school meals our children need on these reduced hours and the Council have also done nothing to assess the gender pay impact of these cuts to a predominantly female workforce.”
In June, the authority increased the cost of school meals for the first time in three years.
Under the changes, the recommended cost of primary, nursery and special school meals went up by 10p to £2.10 and the price of secondary school meals rose 5p to £2.88.
The meal price changes were made as a result of the increasing costs of supplying 60,000 meals each year while maintaining high quality food options.
The County Council says that the cutbacks to catering staff hours come as a result of “rising food and labour costs”.
A spokesperson for the authority said: “We are consulting with our primary school meals staff over possible small reductions in the number of hours they are employed for.
“Like many of our services we need to find budget savings and unfortunately this may mean staff working slightly less hours in the future than they do now.
“We would expect staff to lose in the region of half an hour to one and a half hours a week.
“We do not believe that these small cuts in hours will affect the quality of the meals our staff produce.
“Schools can choose who they use to do their school meals and our catering service needs to make sure that it covers its costs so that it can compete with the private sector.
“No decisions have yet been taken but we will shortly be writing to each member of the 950 staff affected to let them know what the effect on them could be.”