Unite secures huge win for Heathrow cleaners

Unite has secured a significant victory on behalf of low-paid cleaners employed by outsourcing giant Mitie at Heathrow airport.

The mainly migrant workforce whose first language is not English and who are paid below the London living wage, were fearful of dismissal after Mitie withdrew the training and language support for the workforce, before they undertook the General Safety and Awareness Training (GSAT) test which is required to access airside and secure areas at the airport.

Mitie had also announced that if a worker failed the GSAT test four times they would be suspended.

However following pressure from Unite, Mitie has agreed a new policy: in future a manager will be present to run the training video with a group of employees, during this time the video can be rewound, paused and group discussion held as required.

Once the training video is complete, the test will commence, with the manager still present to rephrase any questions and answers that need this.

The company has also confirmed that any employee that has been suspended for failing their GSAT, will be able to return to work and be able to take the test another four times, with the agreed training and support available.

Unite regional officer Clare Keogh said: “This is a huge win for low-paid workers at Heathrow airport. The workers have suffered months of uncertainty and worry and have been forced to fight to protect their jobs and secure the proper training and support they need to be able to carry out their roles.

“Unite is glad that Mitie has seen reason and reinstated the training and support which was essential for the workers to successfully pass their GSAT test. This decision has avoided the possibility of industrial action and hopefully will result in more harmonious industrial relations going forward.”

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