Unite urges HMRC to investigate Mears’ unpaid trainees...

Unite urges HMRC to investigate Mears’ unpaid traineeships in Manchester

24 August 2017

Unite, the UK’s largest union, has described the discovery that controversial outsourcing company Mears is advertising for unpaid trainee positions ‘as a new low’ and has called for HMRC to investigate possible breaches of national minimum wage rules.

The Mears’ advert for workers which appears on the Yes website is titled ‘Trainee Positions with Mears’. The advert states the organisation is seeking work planner, business administrations and various construction trades. It says: “You will be required to complete an unpaid 3 week training course for 2 days a week starting on 25th August”. The advert also states only people living in the M8, M9 and M40 postcodes can apply for the positions.

Unite regional officer Gary Fairclough said: “This advert is a new low for a company which has already been scraping the barrel when it comes to employment practices.

“This is clearly an advertisement for employment and as such anyone taking on the roles advertised should be paid. We will be asking the HMRC to directly investigate this matter and to ensure that no minimum wage laws have been broken.

“This month Mears recorded pre-tax profits of £13 million so paying these trainees amounts to the smallest of small change for the company.

“It is equally alarming that the advert directly discriminates against people living in other postcodes and bars them from applying for the position. If someone moves after accepting a position will they be automatically sacked?

“Rather than advertising for trainees Mears should be recruiting apprentices to ensure that the applicant is provided with proper training and achieves a recognised qualification.

“Recruiting trainees rather than apprentices is nothing more than training on the cheap and devalues the trades being taught.”

The advertisement is particularly controversial as it covers the Mears’ Manchester contract where there has been an unresolved 12 week dispute, concerning pay differentials and attacks on terms and conditions.

Mears and Manchester Working (the joint venture company operated by Mears) have failed to deal with the longstanding problems regarding pay differentials which results in workers being paid up to £3,500 less than colleagues for undertaking the same work.

Mears has claimed that it has offered a 10 per cent pay increase to resolve the dispute. However this requires workers to agree to a new contract, which has been described as having more ‘strings than an orchestra’.

The proposed contract includes an increase in hours, flexible working and the greater use of technology. Mears also wants to introduce a ‘productivity procedure’ which has been described as a ‘sacker’s charter’ as any worker deemed not to be working at 95 per cent of capacity, would be subject to disciplinary action.

The 170 plus workers involved in the dispute undertake housing maintenance work in the north of Manchester on properties managed by Northwards housing association.


Notes to editors: 

The advert can be found at:

For more information please contact Unite communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235. Email: 

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.