PROTESTERS gathered outside HMS Temeraire last night to make a stand against ‘ESS wage robbery’.
Community groups and Labour party members joined together with Unite, Britain’s largest union, to protest at the Royal Navy rugby match. They were playing against the Australian Navy.
Members of Unite were keen to stress that they have no qualms with the military or the gentlemen playing, but said they are ‘disgusted’ with the actions of match sponsors, ESS.
As part of the multi-million pound Compass Group, ESS are said to have ‘stolen’ two to four weeks from the wages of cleaners, mess hands and housekeepers.
The company provides catering, retail and leisure services to the defence and government sectors.
Its staff members are employed at Naval bases including Fort Blockhouse, Whale Island, HMS Sultan and HMS Collingwood.
Last year, ESS presented staff with new contracts which resulted in them only being employed and paid for 50 or 48 weeks a year.
Unite member Bob Middleton said: ‘We are proud to support the armed forces, that’s not what this protest is about.
‘We are disgusted by the actions of ESS who, in a bid to make profits, have treated their staff disgracefully.
Unite said that these cuts have left employees ‘trying to make ends meet’ and some have had to give up running a car.
Bob said: ‘ESS has sufficient funds to sponsor a rugby match and pay for a slap up meal for the great and the good but not to pay their workers for a full year.
‘ESS workers were already low paid but the company’s actions have tipped them over the edge from just about keeping their heads above water to financially drowning. You have to ask how can ESS management sleep at night.
Unite has decided to launch a survery, which will be conducted at Fort Blockhouse, Whale Island, Sultan and Collingwood, to investigate accusations of bullying in the workplace by staff members employed by ESS.
‘We are also looking into current legal claims for members of staff.’
Bob added: ‘We petitioned last week and gained over 400 signatures. On March 21 we will march to see Caroline Dinenage and present our petition.’