Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, has secured victory after a two year struggle for a group of low paid workers employed by the sub-contractor ESS, part of the multi-million pound Compass group, following the ‘theft’ of their working weeks.

In 2017, ESS ‘stole’ up to two working weeks from the workers who were employed as cleaners, mess hands and housekeepers (most of whom were paid the minimum wage) on Ministry of Defence establishments in the Gosport area including Fort Blockhouse.

'Stolen weeks'

In effect the workers were paid for just 50 weeks a year rather than the standard 52.

Unite staged a lengthy campaign involving demonstrations, petitions and leafletting to put pressure on both ESS and the MoD to have the stolen weeks reinstated.

Legal case

Unite then launched a legal case for breach of contract, on behalf of some of the affected workers. As a result of the legal challenge ESS accepted its decision to reduce the working weeks of their employees’ was illegal.

The workers have had their working weeks reinstated, so they are again being paid for 52 weeks a year and have received compensation which is worth on average £1,900 per worker.

Attack on low paid members

Unite regional organiser Bob Middleton who led the campaign against the theft of the working weeks, said; “ESS thought they could simply reduce its costs by attacking the salaries of our low paid members.

 “What ESS did not realise was that the workers were members of Unite and the union was not prepared to accept the outrageous exploitation of its members.

 “The members demonstrated their solidarity by refusing to accept the loss of salary and it is only through their resolve and unity that we have won this battle.

 “As well as the financial compensation this case was very much about the principle of not allowing contractors to get away with daylight robbery.

 “I would like to thank all Unite members for their support especially the key activists, members of Portsmouth and Southampton Unite community branches and members of the Gosport Labour party for their assistance. This victory would not have been possible without them.”


Notes to editors:

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

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