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Dianne Ogg
Job title
Assistant Branch Secretary
In the midst of the pandemic, outsourced school meals workers across England got in touch with their union, UNISON. Their employer Dolce, a private school catering company, was cutting the contracted hours of staff, while still expecting many of them to work the same actual hours.

UNISON Salford City assistant branch secretary Diane Ogg was one of the first union officials to hear about the proposals. Diane received calls from frantic members who were desperate for advice.  

Diane said: “These were the lowest paid, mostly female members, working for an outsourced school meals provider in the thick of the pandemic. One by one members started to call me from all seven schools in Salford where Dolce are based, a picture that was being replicated in other parts of the country.

“They were saying their wages had been messed up, or they weren’t getting their wages on time, or they were having problems with term-time only calculations."

“But on top of that there didn’t seem to be a go-to HR person, so they were turning to their trade union." 

“Then it just went from bad to worse.”  

Diane soon heard from members that they had been told their hours would be reduced by an average of 20-25%, with some as much as 40%. Other were told they would be moved to zero-hours contracts.   Staff would no longer be guaranteed as many hours. Although in reality they would often be expected to work the same hours and claim the difference as overtime, to be paid a month later than contracted hours.

Diane said: “I was receiving calls from members desperately crying, panicking about how they were going to get through."

“Christmas was looming. They couldn’t see a way out. They felt that they couldn’t leave the company and get another job because we were in the middle of the pandemic."

“They were stuck in a nightmare.”  


UNISON’s Salford branch sprang into action, and the union’s national office took out a collective grievance against Dolce.

Diane said: “It was all systems go. Not only were these members frontline workers, working in a school under very difficult circumstances, they had their employer threatening them with the most ruthless cuts and changes to their employment." 

“Our national branch formulated a grievance template letter that was sent out to all our members."

“I contacted headteachers and local politicians. I wanted them to know what was happening to members who had been outsourced to Dolce under TUPE: the Transfer of Undertakings of Employment rights."

It was important the local authority knew how members were being treated by this company, with the view that no other school in Salford would consider outsourcing to Dolce.

“We sent a letter to Dolce saying you may not recognise us as a trade union, but these workers are our members, and they should still be receiving the same [terms and conditions] they were receiving when they were local authority members."

“At the grievance meetings the employees really stuck up for themselves. I was so proud of them. They were talking about how it was impacting on their family lives, their personal lives, they were asking legitimate questions to Dolce about why they were imposing these cuts when they were still receiving adequate funding."

“It was clear that this was a company profiteering at the expense of some of the lowest paid workers."


After a three-year legal battle, the union members won a significant wages settlement.  

UNISON’s lawyers brought a claim of unauthorised deduction of wages on behalf of over 50 workers and won thousands of pounds for the members employed by Dolce. Further to this, 23 additional workers who had TUPE-transferred to different employers have also settled for a substantial sum.  

Diane said: “To hear the outcome was fantastic. These are people who were classed as frontline workers during the pandemic and had to endure immense stress at the hands of an employer who informed them that their hours and pay would be cut."  

“Through sheer determination and with the support of UNISON, these workers have fought for their rights and claimed a victory.”  

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