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From The Socialist newspaper, 19 July 2007

School dinners saved... for now

On 24 May, Waltham Forest's Labour leader faced a 300-strong crowd of protesting catering workers, parents and school students on the town hall steps. He pledged to keep the borough's school meal service by continuing the subsidy from the council.

Nancy Taaffe, Waltham Forest UNISON, personal capacity

But this has not stopped a private consultant visiting schools, gaining an audience with head teachers and advising them of their 'options' should they want to opt out of borough provision.

A game of cat-and-mouse has developed between campaigners and this consultant. When we find out where he's going we turn up, hang up our banner and leaflet parents and passers-by. Trade unionists go inside and give the catering workers back-up. Some head teachers have given us a hearing, others have been hostile and irate at us for turning up.

The leader of the council and the borough's head of human resources were forced to visit the UNISON office last week. They laid out the financial formulae and gave us a cast-iron guarantee of the money for an extra year. They have also issued a financial disincentive for any school deciding to go with a private company.

The campaign to save school meals met last week and a strategy has been devised to keep a watching brief on the situation and maintain the profile of the campaign.

We will raise the idea of strike action should any rogue head teacher decide to go it alone. We seem to have won. For now.

No victory is secure under capitalism and even just winning time requires a Herculean effort. But socialists and trade unionists have secured this small victory and we will fight tooth and nail to keep it.

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In The Socialist 19 July 2007:

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