Low paid cleaners, employed by multi-million pound outsourcing company Mitie, have been left fearing for their jobs after the company reneged on a previous agreement regarding training.
The workers, who are members of Unite are paid below the living wage. The majority of the cleaners are of a BAEM background and do not have English as a first language. They are required to pass the General Safety and Awareness Training (GSAT) in order to access airside and secure areas at Heathrow airport. They are also required to pass a fire safety course.
Historically Mitie has provided assistance to the workers in the form of training and language support before they took the GSAT exam. Controversially, Mitie withdrew this support in October 2019 but were forced to reintroduce a support system the following month following a campaign by Unite.
Despite the two tests being reintroduced at the end of last year, Mitie has failed to reintroduce the support it was providing and longstanding workers who fail the test face suspension and risk losing their jobs.
Unite believes that Mitie is cynically trying to force out some of the longest serving workers, who have worked at the airport for between 10 and 20 years. These workers have TUPE protected terms and conditions, which are better than those that Mitie offers new starters.
By engineering the removal of the longstanding workers, Mitie would be able to further boost its profits through a race to the bottom.
Unite has submitted a collective grievance, and senior staff at Heathrow Airport Limited have been made aware of the issue.
The union has asked for all testing to be stopped until there is a full investigation into the conduct of Mitie’s managers on the terminal 5 contract, who members report are bullying and pressurising them.
Unite regional officer Clare Keogh said, “Mitie, a multi-million pound organisation is once again guilty of trying to boost profits by targeting low paid cleaners.
“Mitie is cynically using the cover of Covid to renege on the previous agreement to provide support to workers whose first language is not English,” she added.
“The company is deliberately setting up the workers who have worked at the airport for many years, to fail, in order to engineer their dismissal.
“This is a clearly discriminatory policy against workers from a BAEM background and if Mitie does not reinstate the support previously provided then Unite will be forced to investigate all potential legal avenues to force the outsourcing giant to treat workers fairly,” Keogh continued.
“Unite is also highly concerned to learn that our members report they are experiencing bullying from Mitie’s management on the Terminal Five contract.
“Mitie should be honour bound to swiftly enter into negotiations with Unite in order to ensure workers are treated fairly and can pass the required test and that the bullying at the airport is stamped out once and for all.”
By Barckley Sumner