WORKERS at a Ministry of Defence site are set to lose £500 in wages every year.
That is the news from trade union Unite, which organised a protest at Fort Blockhouse in Haslar Road, Gosport, yesterday afternoon.
Low-paid workers such as cleaners and mess hands are having their working year cut from 52 to 50 weeks – which the trade union says will cost the workers £500 each.
Outside Fort Blockhouse, the staff members made their thoughts known with an hour-long protest by the main entrance.
The staff’s managers were spotted watching the protest from inside the fort, but were unavailable for comment.
The staff members are employed by ESS – which is part of Compass Group.
ESS’ current contract is up for renewal at Fort Blockhouse, with it understood that contract bids are being submitted this month.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey believes that ESS is lowering employee costs to submit a lower contract bid, to increase the chance of keeping the contract.
He said: ‘What ESS is doing is nothing short of wage robbery.
‘Bosses are seeking to ruthlessly exploit low-paid, long serving workers in order to further boost the firm’s already astronomic profits.
‘They have the full backing of Britain’s largest union to win their battle for wage justice.’
Although ESS staff members are forbidden to speak to the press, Unite regional officer Bob Middleton spoke on their behalf at the protest.
He said: ‘The ESS don’t have the agreement to do something like this, and these staff members are going to lose out on £500 every year as a result of the ESS taking this action.
‘The staff members were told back in June that they were going to have their contracts changed, and were initially told that if they didn’t volunteer to drop down to 50 weeks that it would be reduced to 48.
‘It is quite simple – the staff at Fort Blockhouse have been bullied by ESS.’
A spokesman from ESS said: ‘We continually review the working patterns of our colleagues to ensure they meet the evolving needs of our customers and clients.
‘The changes we are currently implementing at this site are in line with this.
‘We remain committed to having an open and constructive dialogue with our colleagues.’
Letters of protest have been submitted by staff members, which will be heard next Tuesday.