Dinner ladies threaten to strike

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The Independent Online

They have doled out soggy chips and semolina for the best part of a century and have finally had enough. Britain's dinner ladies are threatening their first ever strike action. A court of appeal ruling has left more than 100,000 dinner ladies unable to claim any dole over the summer holidays.

They have doled out soggy chips and semolina for the best part of a century and have finally had enough. Britain's dinner ladies are threatening their first ever strike action. A court of appeal ruling has left more than 100,000 dinner ladies unable to claim any dole over the summer holidays.

A survey by the General Municipal Boilermakers union (GMB) has revealed that because of the Government's new rules 85 per cent of dinner ladies are considering leaving the service. The union is now threatening to call a nationwide dinner ladies' strike and has warned the Government that if it doesn't act the service will be in crisis at the start of the next school year.

Traditionally dinner ladies are employed from September to June and have, until the introduction of the Job Seekers' Allowance (JSA) last year, then claimed benefits over the summer. But under JSA rules claimants have to show they are actively looking for work to receive benefits. Many dinner ladies don't wish to give up their occupation and others who have tried to leave have been refused benefit because the JSA doesn't believe them.

Lorna Gouldstone, 36, a catering manager at Hill Head Primary, Kilmarnock, suffered this double indignity last year. She decided to leave the service but, despite strenuous efforts to find a full-time job, the JSA still refused to believe she was trying to get out of the service and suspended all benefits.

She is adamant that without some form of summer payment dinner ladies will not be able to continue."Most people who do this job are single parents trying to make ends meet," she said. "We're not trying to milk the system, just trying to get by."

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