The cost-cutting ‘scandal’ for employees working at Ministry of Defence (MoD) establishments in the south of England has been compounded by the awarding of a new contract to ESS.
The low paid employees at the MoD’s Fort Blockhouse base in Gosport, Hampshire, who work as cleaners, mess hands and housekeepers, are currently embroiled in a row as ESS has cut the workers’ working year from 52 to 50 weeks.
Unite, which represents 27 ESS workers, said it was taking legal advice as some employees had their weeks further cut to 48 weeks a year and there were questions about their hourly rate being below the national living wage currently £7.50 an hour. It is set to rise to £7.83 in 2018.
Unite also has members employed by ESS at HMS Sultan (Gosport), HMS Collingwood (Fareham) and Whale Island (Portsmouth), where the company is also cutting the working year in the contracts of its low paid workers.
ESS is part of the Compass Group. The pay of the CEO for Compass Group North America, Gary Green, was £5.8 million last year – the equivalent of £15,890 a day.
“The Ministry of Defence is collaborating in this greedy cost-cutting scandal by awarding a new contract to ESS to run for five years from 1 June 2018,” said Unite regional officer Bob Middleton.
“ESS has won the contract by submitting a bid with reduced employee costs which is disgraceful, as our members are loyal employees who are proud to support our armed forces.”
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey wrote to the defence secretary Gavin Williamson about the unilateral reduction in the weeks worked and the loss of an estimated £500 a year in wages – but no response from the minister was forthcoming.
Bob Middleton added, “The MoD should hang its head in shame by giving a new contract to ESS, a company that does not care whether some of its employees are now suffering financial hardship after having their working weeks axed without consultation.
“The announcement of the new contract is rubbing salt into the wounds.
“Unite will be holding a meeting of all our members affected by this disgraceful decision next week to discuss how we continue our campaign for pay justice.”