Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1077/30404
Homerton Hospital workers fight for sick pay
- Staff win right to full pay if forced to self-isolate - now demand policy made permanent
Brian Debus, Hackney Socialist Party and Hackney Trade Union Council
Staff at Homerton Hospital, east London, celebrated when they heard the news that private contractor ISS had agreed to pay workers their usual pay if they are forced to self-isolate to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
But celebrations very quickly turned to questions. Why won't they pay us if we are off work with any other infectious disease?
About half the ISS workers at Homerton Hospital get no occupational sick pay, meaning they have to rely on statutory sick pay. This is only paid from the fourth day of sickness and is a tiny £94.25 a week.
This is a serious health risk. Workers forced to work when they are sick are more likely to spread infections and disease. This should not be allowed, particularly in a hospital where there are many vulnerable people. Workers should not be forced to choose between paying their rent or buying food, or following health advice and staying home if they are sick or injured.
NHS trade unions Unison and the GMB have been campaigning for all staff to get full sick pay, and this victory on coronavirus is a good step towards it. It is also proof that campaigning and trade union organising can win real improvements for workers.
There have been victories on pay. After a strong trade union campaign, the half of the workforce who don't get sick pay have finally had their pay increased to the current London Living Wage of £10.75 an hour. But the other half, who for years had higher pay because of their length of service, and because their contracts give them more rights, are now being kept below the London Living Wage. This seems to be a cynical attempt to 'divide and rule' a two-tier workforce.
A trade union petition signed by thousands of Homerton Hospital staff, patients and members of the public also calls for ISS workers to be given full NHS rates of pay, and the conditions that go along with it, like real occupational sick pay and better annual leave.
But Unison and the GMB are also campaigning for all services run by ISS to be brought back in-house at the end of their contract later this year. Workers at Homerton have heard about the strike at St Mary's Hospital in west London. That resulted in the trust, which covers St Mary's, announcing in January that staff in all five hospitals they cover would be brought back in-house from 1 April 2020!
This has convinced the workers that their best option is direct NHS employment. Workers are angry at broken promises. Unions estimate staff are owed well over £1,000 - many well over £2,000 - in back pay from ISS stretching back over two years. Unions say ISS agreed to pay the London Living wage from the start of the contract, but allowed wages to fall below it from November 2017. What has happened to this money?
Hackney Trade Union Council is organising a public meeting in April to highlight campaigns for services to be brought back in-house, including speakers from Homerton Hospital unions and the Hackney APCOA traffic wardens, who are striking to be brought back into the council, and for £15 an hour. The campaign for services to be brought back in-house is gathering momentum.
In The Socialist 11 March 2020:
Campaigns and party news
Women's and trans rights