(MDS) can ‘well afford’ to pay furloughed London meter readers earning just above the national minimum wage their full wages, Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Friday 19 June).
The union, which represents around 100 former EDF meter readers who were transferred to MDS in 2017, said that the workers were already living on ‘poverty wages’ before the coronavirus outbreak and that the impact of their reduced pay during furlough had been ‘devastating’.
MDS is using the government’s job retention scheme to pay the workers, who work across London and the South East, 80 per cent of their wages.
However, neither the workers nor Unite agreed to the reduction and the union is calling on the company to pay the furloughed staff 100 per cent of their salary, including backdated wages accrued since the beginning of lockdown.
The firm, part of M Group Services for essential infrastructure, made profits of £4.8 million during the 2018/19 financial year and has continued to operate across many of its divisions during the lockdown.
Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “MDS, no doubt like many other firms, are hoping that their workers will be so happy to have a job that they will be willing to take a pay cut. But a 20 per cent pay cut for workers already living on poverty wages is devastating.
“In its coronavirus business update, the M Group has stated that it has ‘the resilience to withstand significant challenges’. If that’s the case, there is no reason why it should be leaving these loyal and hard-working staff to struggle during the lockdown.
“The company can well afford to pay these vital but low-paid workers their full wages during this time. Unite urges MDS to reverse these pay cuts and put this dispute to bed. If the company’s leadership refuse to do so, Unite will continue to pursue our members’ pay through every available means, including the employment tribunal.”