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‘Put a line in the sand’

Defence secretary urged to stop Gosport wage robbery
Barckley Sumner, Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has written to Gavin Williamson MP, the new secretary of state for defence, requesting he intervenes to prevent a multi-million company robbing the wages of low-paid cleaners.


The low-paid workers work at the MoD’s Fort Blockhouse base in Gosport Hampshire, undertaking roles as cleaners, mess hands and housekeepers. They are employed on a contract let to ESS part of the Compass Group.


In a move to reduce costs and boost profits ESS has cut the workers’ working year from 52 to 50 weeks. As the workforce will be unpaid for a fortnight, the workers are cynically being robbed of roughly £500 a year each.


In his letter to Mr Williamson, McCluskey wrote, “The MoD has attempted to say that this is a matter for ESS but clearly as the contracting agency, this is nonsense and in fact it is well within the power of the MoD to intervene to ensure that all contractors behave ethically and pay a living wage to all employees every week of every year they are employed.


“Your predecessor failed to intervene but I hope that you will put this right, the difference in the overall cost of the contract to pay these women properly is tiny, but it will make a huge difference to the workers concerned.”


The current contract ends on May 31, 2018. Unite understands that bids for the new contract have to be submitted this month. Having robbed the cleaners of their pay, ESS has potentially secured a significant financial advantage in the bidding process.


ESS is also cutting the working year and robbing the wages of workers at Whale Island (Portsmouth) and other locations in the south east.


The affected workers yesterday (November 7) held a protest against the wage robbery at Fort Blockhouse.


Mr McCluskey said, “Gavin Williamson has the opportunity to put a line in the sand and say that the MoD will not accept workers being exploited on his watch.


“ESS should be barred from bidding for this and future contracts until it ensures that its workforce is paid fairly and properly.”


Unite regional officer Bob Middleton who represents the workforce added, “Our members are dedicated and take great pride in their work. To treat them in this way is absolutely shameful.


“The wage robbery that our members are facing is the difference between them keeping their heads above water and being plunged into financial penury.”


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