Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, has warned that it will not allow low paid cleaners, employed by outsourcing giant Mitie at Heathrow airport, to be faced with dismissal due to penny pinching by the company.

Cleaners targeted

The cleaners, many of whom are migrant workers with English as their second language, are required to pass the General Safety and Awareness Training (GSAT) in order to access airside and secure areas at the airport.

Prior to previous tests the workforce received up-to-date training and language support. However, Mitie has now ended this support claiming it is to stop ‘cheating’. It has also announced that if a worker fails the test four times they will be suspended.

Long service

Many of the workers have worked at the terminal for 10 to 20 years, with some having worked there for 30 years. The cleaners are paid less than the London Living Wage of £10.55 per hour.

Unite believes that the reason that Mitie has stopped assisting workers with the test, is because the contract is due to be re-tendered and the company is  cost cutting to secure the contract and win additional contracts at the airport.

In a sinister move, Mitie has forced the cleaners to sign forms agreeing to the new policy or they would be suspended.

Mitie profits

Mitie is highly profitable having recorded a pre-tax profit of £88.2 million a year.

Unite has submitted a collective grievance on behalf of its members and is seeking legal advice to ascertain whether Mitie could be guilty of discriminating against its workers on the grounds of race.

If Mitie refuses to reinstall the pre-testing assistance then Unite will consider beginning the process of taking industrial action against Mitie.

Penny pinching

Unite regional officer Clare Keogh said: “Mitie is a multi-million pound company which is making huge profits, cutting the assistance to workers taking the test is the worst form of penny pinching.

“By cutting the assistance prior to the tests, Mitie is setting up dedicated workers to fail.

“Forcing workers to sign forms agreeing to these unnecessary changes has left our members feeling bullied and stressed at work.

“Many of the affected cleaners have spent most of their working lives keeping Heathrow airport clean and functioning and for them to be treated this way is completely unacceptable.

“Mitie is clearly looking to cuts costs as it re-tenders the contract but this will not be at the expense of our members and Unite will be challenging this ill-thought out policy from all possible angles.”


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.