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Dinner ladies save their jobs after 36 days of strike action

NINE school dinner ladies are celebrating victory after their jobs were saved following 36 days of strike action.

The dinner ladies, who supervise school meals and playground activities at Ladywood Primary School in the former mining community of Grimethorpe, near Barnsley in Yorkshire, returned to work triumphant yesterday.

The nine were told they were being made redundant to save money — even though they work only up to two hours a day — and that their jobs would be taken over by teaching assistants.

Head teacher Clare Grainger said the school was “facing a significant budget shortfall” for 2019-2020.

The dinner ladies voted unanimously for a series of strikes and walked out in September. Later they decided to strike indefinitely.

The women, who are members of public service union Unison, picketed the school daily.

They won support from other school staff and parents, who joined the picket line.

The school’s teaching assistants showed solidarity by refusing to take on the dinner-ladies’ duties and instead joined them on strike.

Barnsley East Labour MP Stephanie Peacock, who is a former full-time official of general union GMB, spoke out in support of the strikers.

Unison discovered that the school planned to use the money saved by sacking the dinner ladies to employ other staff.

The union proposed alternative cost-cutting measures without the need for redundancies, and school management withdrew the proposal.

Unison area organiser Jordan Stapleton said: “It was completely unacceptable to attempt to make the dinner ladies redundant when job losses were unnecessary.

“School budgets are being squeezed, but in this case the school was spending the money it was saving on additional teaching staff and other support staff without even advertising the jobs.

“Our dinner ladies between them have got over 100 years experience at the school and they provide a caring and important role that is valued by the children.

“Importantly, the teaching assistants at the school were not prepared to put their family, friends and colleagues out of work.

“Where schools do need to make savings, they need to know that low-paid women are not easy targets and the contributions they make to our communities cannot be underestimated.”

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