Campaigners have called on Bolton schools to “cut profits out of school meals” and bring dinner ladies back in house.

Meals are currently prepared by workers employed by private companies at most Bolton schools, rather than by the schools themselves, in common with many other boroughs around the country.

But unions believe that this has exposed them to lower pay, cuts to hours and without sick pay which they believe can be addressed by bringing the workers back under local authority control.

Unison vice president and Bolton branch secretary Andrea Egan said: “School meals workers play a vital role at the heart of every school.

“We must stand up for this important group of workers.

“It’s why we are asking everyone to sign our petition calling for school meals workers to be brought in-house.

“If we can cut profits out of school meals, then we can help to ensure that more money is invested in nutritious meals for young people whilst boosting the pay and benefits of workers.”

The union says that dinner ladies and other school meal workers are dedicated to ensuring children are kept healthy and well looked after and as such should be well rewarded for what they do.

But as well as low pay the worker have also been badly affected by the pandemic, with many without sick pay when having to self-isolate, according to Unison.  

Unison national officer Leigh Powell said: “School meals workers are vital to ensuring our children get at least one good meal a day, yet this important job is often outsourced to private companies who put profits first.

“Year after year school meal workers find surviving on their low wages, lack of sick pay and attacks on their terms and conditions increasingly difficult.”

The council has said that after being left deadlocked at the recent elections it cannot have a position on whether to bring school meal workers back in house until a new administration is formed.

This is expected in the coming weeks once one of the major parties has enough support to command a majority on the council.