School cleaning and catering staff across Tayside could go on strike over pay and “atrocious” working conditions.
Cleaners are having to clear up discarded lateral flow tests and used face masks, it was claimed, but have been offered an “unacceptable” pay rise.
Stephanie Smith, a rep for GMB Dundee branch, gave notice to Tayside Contracts on Thursday of intention to ballot members on strike action.
It comes after GMB Scotland members rejected COSLA’s (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) pay increase offer of £850 for local government staff earning up to £25,000 a year.
Cleaning and catering staff worked in schools throughout the pandemic, even when schools were only open for children of key workers.
Pay increase “pretty unacceptable”
Stephanie said: “Tayside Contracts are affiliated by the councils as such and they are under the group COSLA who have offered the £850 increase.
“But for a term time, part time worker it will equate to maybe 90 pence a week (increase) which is pretty unacceptable. They have been in schools during the pandemic.
“We are going to serve them notice today to start industrial action and if they accept to go out on strike, we are looking to take them out during COP26 and that will be the whole of Scotland.”
The potential strike action is also due to concerns over some of the working conditions cleaning staff are having to deal with – which Stephanie describes as “atrocious”.
Pictures taken in schools show toilets and sinks blocked with paper and food, as well chairs littered with rubbish.
Stephanie also describes members reporting having to clean up used masks and even lateral flow tests discarded on school campuses.
She said: “Some of the conditions the cleaners are having to come into is atrocious. There are masks and even lateral flow tests lying about, it’s absolutely shocking.
“From the cleaners I have spoken to, they feel like they are totally overlooked all the time. It’s like they are not part of the school but just people that clean up.
“I feel like they have totally disregarded us as key workers. Our caterers, cleaners, school workers have been in during the pandemic making sure the schools are safe for key worker kids.”
Concerns have also been raised about the rising number of Covid cases in schools and the potential danger this could pose to the families of catering and cleaning staff.
Stephanie added: “The state of the schools just, with the cases coming out, it’s quite scary for them.
“For example, I have a vulnerable husband and I’m having to go out to work and I’m scared, with the cases rising, that I could pass it on to him.
“It’s always the low paid, women workers that get this.”
Tayside Contracts declined to comment.