Outsourcing Giant in Industrial Relations Mess, Says Union

OUTSOURCING GIANT, Mitie, should be banned from acquiring Interserve contracts according to Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union.

The union believes contracts should not be awarded to the outsourcer due to its poor workforce treatment and industry relations record. Unite currently has at least four separate industrial disputes at various stages with Mitie.

Meanwhile it has been widely reported that Mitie is interested in purchasing a large chunk of Interserve’s contracts following the company’s collapse into administration last week. Interserve then emerged from administration entirely owned by its lenders, who are now looking for a swift return on their investment.

Pay disputes
Security staff employed by Mitie at Southampton General hospital will begin eight days of strike action next month in a dispute over wages, safety and sick pay. Workers are currently paid £8.64 an hour, which they believe does not recompense them for the stress and abuse they receive.

Despite its employees coming under frequent attack, Mitie has refused to provide the workers with stab vests. The workers only receive sick pay (and then just two weeks full pay and two weeks half pay) if an investigation accepts that they were injured at work.

Union balloting
Last week (Thursday 21 March), Unite began balloting 180 workers employed at Sellafield in Cumbria. The 180 workers are employed as security guards, catering, vending and laundry operatives. The workers on the category one nuclear site are predominantly paid just £8.06 an hour.

Mitie refused to allow Unite a seat at the negotiating table and offered just a three per cent increase over this April’s minimum wage increase (£8.21 an hour) raising rates to £8.45. The offer was rejected by 85 per cent of members but Mitie has refused to return to the negotiating table and has sought to impose the offer.

Unite is also currently balloting members employed by Mitie at City Airport as security guards and in assisting passengers with restricted mobility in a pay and conditions dispute.

The dispute is over Mitie’s failure to pay the London living wage to the workforce and to offer a pay increase in excess of retail price index (RPI). The workforce is also seeking enhanced rates for overtime and improved sick pay.

Unite is also seeking Mitie to recognise the union for collective bargaining and provide adequate rest break facilities for its workforce. Workers are given a 45 minute rest break but have to walk to a distant restroom which takes 15 minutes to reach.

Meanwhile Unite is preparing to ballot 65 members employed on a Crawley council outsourced housing maintenance contract over pay. Since Mitie secured the contract in 2010, the workforce has received a total pay increase of just 2.5 per cent, resulting in their pay rates having fallen by 27.5 per cent in real terms.

Mitie has refused to enter into negotiations over pay despite recognising Unite.

Gail Cartmail

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “Mitie’s industrial relations are in a complete mess. Up and down the UK, Unite is being forced to ballot workers for industrial action, as Mitie is failing to pay workers a living wage, ensure their safety and enter into proper negotiations to resolve these issues.

“All of these disputes would be entirely resolvable if the employer was acting in a reasonable manner.

“What these disputes demonstrate is that Mitie is not a fit and proper company to acquire Interserve’s contracts. Interserve workers who have already suffered more than enough stress and anxiety this year, should not be saddled with Mitie.”