The Socialist 8 July 2020 |
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Homerton hospital workers deserve equal pay and conditions
Homerton Hospital workers during an earlier dispute in 2016, photo Clare Doyle (Click to enlarge)
Brian Debus, Hackney Socialist Party
Management at Homerton Hospital in Hackney, east London, has outraged staff by insisting that outsourcing and inferior pay and conditions for ancillary workers will go on. The trust has decided to sign a new five-year contract with multinational privateer ISS.
This is despite a big campaign by staff and unions to bring these 300 workers back in-house. Since then, 170 doctors at Homerton have written an open letter to the trust. They call on trust bosses to rethink, and put ISS staff on the same terms and conditions as NHS staff.
The trust says the best it can offer ISS staff is a contract that guarantees the London Living Wage throughout. This is nearly £1,500 less per year than staff would earn on the lowest NHS pay band. And that's before you take into account enhanced rates, for night and weekend working, and so on.
Staff unions are sceptical about even this pledge. When the current five-year contract came in, ISS assured workers that pay would be at least the London Living Wage throughout. But many staff haven't received this rate for nearly half the contract! So how can members trust ISS?
Many workers are still owed £1,100 to £2,100 back pay, depending on their contract. What has happened to that money?
Another scandal: around half of ISS staff receive no occupational sick pay. This leaves them scraping around to survive on statutory sick pay. Statutory sick pay isn't even payable for the first three days off work. After that, workers get a maximum of £95.85 a week - equivalent to wages of just £2.56 an hour!
The idea of forcing workers to choose between coming to work sick, or not being able to pay their rent and bills, is brutal. So is the financial disaster faced by anyone who has a serious illness and needs more than a few days off.
But in a hospital, this is also a public health hazard. How can you control infection when your staff cannot afford to go off sick?
The trust is apparently considering adding proper sick pay to the contract. But why is this the limit of bosses' ambition? ISS staff at Homerton deserve equal pay and conditions with their NHS-employed colleagues.
Meanwhile, Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement have shone a light on capitalism's institutional racism. The NHS has pledged many times to tackle this. The ISS workforce is nearly 80% black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME).
The trust could use the opportunity of the contract ending to begin addressing these very real inequalities. Instead, bosses are choosing to ride roughshod over the rights of staff, and enshrine economic inequality for a largely BAME section of the workforce for a further five years.
The reason? To save money. Instead, we say workers should be guaranteed decent and equal pay and conditions, and a campaign initiated for additional resources as needed.
Socialist Party members in Hackney stand in solidarity with all workers at Homerton Hospital. We are fighting for:
- All staff and services to be brought back in-house - end all outsourcing and privatisation
- Pay rises and NHS pay and conditions for all workers in the health service
- Reverse the cuts - for full funding of our NHS and all public services