A row has broken out over changes to employment terms for cafeteria staff at South Tyneside College.
Union Unison has condemned planned alterations to sick pay and overtime arrangements for staff employed by external contractor Sodexo at the college.
But the firm has defended its actions, insisting it has gone through the correct consultation process and that the changes will bring its employees in line with college staff, who underwent a similar process last year.
The two sides have been locked in talks over the plans since January but have so far failed to reach an agreement.
The union says Sodexo is concerned it paid out £4,000 in overtime and £6,000 in sick pay entitlements in the 2014/15 academic year and that the firm has now sought to impose the changes, telling staff they will come into effect from next month.
A spokeswoman said: “Unison believes these changes are morally indefensible – a company the size of Sodexo making these changes due to a saving of £10,000 in these two areas which mainly affects low paid workers.
“Unison advised Sodexo to remain in dialogue to try and resolve this matter, but Sodexo issued a letter with the proposed changes to the contract of employment on May 18 and asked staff to sign and agree that their contract shall be varied by June 15.
“Unison is asking members not to accept these terms and conditions.
But a Sodexo spokesman defended the firm’s actions: “We have been in consultation with our employees at South Tyneside College since January about changes to their terms and conditions.
“We invited all parties to contribute to the consultation from the start and fulfilled all obligations of a fair process.
“It would be inappropriate to go into further detail until the consultation period is complete on Wednesday.”
The company says the consultation does not affect pay and that its 15 employees are paid above National Living Wage.
A spokesperson for South Tyneside College confirmed a similar process had been undertaken in 2015 in line with government funding cuts and that college management were supporting Sodexo through the current consultation.