FEMALE catering workers at two Glasgow colleges say they have been left “blindsided” by plans to replace staff with vending machines ahead of the start of the new term.

Public sector union Unison says 42 jobs are at risk at City of Glasgow College and Clyde College – 21 staff at each institution.

Baxter Storey and Sodexo, the two private companies running the catering contracts, have blamed lower footfall in the college cafes due to the pandemic for the decision to cut jobs.

Unison claims catering for staff and students will be axed at City of Glasgow College while corporate catering for senior management and dignitaries will remain.

More than 2000 people have backed a petition by Unison urging Scotland’s minister for further education Richard Lochhead to step in to avert the cuts.

Elizabeth Breen, a caterer at the Anniesland campus, said: “We were all sent a text by a manager asking us to attend a meeting in two days’ time, which we believed would be to discuss returning to work in August. 

“Instead, we were completely blindsided by this news

“We feel hung out to dry by the college who have simply allowed catering to be scrapped with no regard to the long-serving staff affected, especially at a time like this. 

“On top of this, it appears we’re now going to have to fight to get back pay which is rightfully ours.”

Chris Greenshields, branch secretary of Unison Scotland’s further education branch, said staff are already among some of the lowest paid in the sector.

He added: “Unions and employers were working well together to ensure that the colleges could furlough staff as soon as possible, saving the sector hundreds of thousands of pounds. 

“It’s a slap in the face to then make 42 staff redundant before we even start the academic year.”

A spokesman for Glasgow Clyde College said: “Sodexo’s contract to provide catering services to Glasgow Clyde College’s Langside and Anniesland campuses recently drew to a close.

“Upon confirmation that Sodexo would be initiating redundancy consultation procedures for its employees, we’ve been in dialogue with trade unions, as well as Sodexo to discuss whether there may be any alternative positions available.

"Unfortunately, despite these efforts there are currently not any suitable vacancies for those affected individuals, partly as a result of lower demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated reduction in anticipated catering requirements in the upcoming academic term.

“The college is fully compliant with the terms of its Living Wage accreditation, which supports a phased implementation of third party contractors paying the Living Wage.”