Workers being paid the minimum wage on outsourced Ministry of Defence contracts across Somerset and Devon face being plunged into poverty by their employer.

Low paid workers

The workers who undertake cleaning and catering roles are employed by ESS, part of the multi-billion pound Compass Group, on outsourced ministry of defence contracts.

They are currently being forced to undergo a false redundancy process. Managers are telling them that they have to agree to have their working weeks reduced from the standard 52 weeks a year to just 48 weeks, or be immediately made redundant.

Big pay cuts

Workers are set to lose up to £1,600 a year, if they agree to the cut in their working weeks.

Unite is representing workers at several armed forces bases including: Norton Manor Camp in Taunton, RNAS Yeovilton in Yeovil and RM Chivenor near Barnstaple in Devon.

Using Covid as cover

ESS are blaming the Covid pandemic for the cut in working weeks, despite its MoD contracts being unaffected by the pandemic. During the first lockdown, ESS workers were required to continue working.

Unite has descried the process as false because ESS has failed to issue an official HR1 or section 188 redundancy notice. Local managers have also been forced to admit that they would not know what to do if the entire workforce refused to accept the working weeks cut in therefore and take immediate redundancy.  

Workers upset and vulnerable 

Unite regional officer Shevaun Hunt said: “The workers have been left feeling upset and vulnerable as they are being asked to sign up for poverty pay or made redundant on the spot.

 “These workers are only paid the minimum wage and are already on the breadline. They have no way of making ends meet.

 “ESS is heartlessly using the pandemic as cover to force through these changes to boost profits.

 “This a false redundancy process which can be legally challenged but workers are being forced into signing as they fear losing their jobs.

 “This is simply an appalling way to treat people who are dedicated to providing an excellent service for our armed forces.

 “When you point these issues out to local managers they literally have no answers. I have had more productive conversations talking to the wall.”


Notes to editors:

ESS labelled UK’s most heartless employer over sign or be sacked policy, as Parliament prepares to debate cruel practices

During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

For more information please contact Unite senior 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.