Unite has accused Caroline Dinenage MP and the Ministry of Defence of ‘washing their hands’ of low paid workers who have had their working week’s stolen by their employer ESS, part of the multi-million pound Compass group.
The workers, who are employed as cleaners, mess hands and housekeepers work on outsourced contracts at Ministry of Defence establishments in the Gosport area including: Fort Blockhouse, Whale Island, HMS Collingwood and HMS Sultan.
In order for ESS to boost its profits last year the company forced the workforce to accept new contracts which mean that they are only employed for 50 or 48 weeks a year, with the other weeks being unpaid. Workers report that they are up to £500 a year worse off due to the actions of ESS.
As part of Unite’s campaign against wage robbery, the union and local community groups staged a march in Gosport High Street in March and handed a petition to Ms Dinenage (the Conservative MP for Gosport) and also held a meeting with her.
Ms Dinenage then promised to write to the Ministry of Defence regarding the workers’ concerns.
The MP, who is a junior health minister, has now forwarded the response she has received from the MoD, without comment. The letter from the junior defence minister Tobias Ellwood MP, said, “Due to the terms of the contract with ESS, the MoD has no involvement with the decisions that ESS take on the contracted hours for staff to work or staffing levels which is in line with standard practice.”
Unite regional officer Bob Middleton said, “The ESS workers were hoping their local MP would be their champion but she has instead merely acted as a courier.”
“Caroline Dinenage and the Ministry of Defence have both ‘washed their hands’ of low paid workers who are being exploited; they could have taken a stand but have instead chosen to look the other way.”
As part of the campaign, Unite has now lodged employment tribunals on behalf of its members for breach of contract.
The union is also increasing pressure on Ms Dinenage to effectively intervene by beginning a leafletting campaign in her constituency and asking the local electorate to write to her about their concerns about the ‘ESS wage robbery’.
“Unite is using all avenues open to it, be that industrially, legally and politically to ensure justice for the workers that ESS is cynically exploiting,” Middleton added.
“This campaign will continue until the stolen weeks are returned”.