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From The Socialist newspaper, 11 March 2020

Homerton Hospital workers fight for sick pay

Protest of Homerton hospital ISS workers on 25 August 2016, photo Clare Doyle

Protest of Homerton hospital ISS workers on 25 August 2016, photo Clare Doyle   (Click to enlarge)

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.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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In The Socialist 11 March 2020:


Coronavirus

Coronavirus: Full NHS funding now

Coronavirus infects the world economy

Flybe collapse: nationalise to save jobs threatened by Covid-19 and downturn

Coronavirus: international cooperation needed, not capitalist competition

Supermarkets are ruled by profit - unions should control supply limits

For full pay during isolation: for public health as well as workers' wallets

Self-isolation patients speak: NHS facilities and advice not up to it

Italy on lockdown: lack of resources and democracy causes panic

South Korea shows capitalism has money to respond to coronavirus

Coronavirus news in brief


News

Domestic Violence bill: We still need to fight to save our services

News in brief


Workplace news

Postal workers mobilise to win strike reballot

Homerton Hospital workers fight for sick pay

Fighting to transform the union in my warehouse

Argos workers in Sainsbury's stores threatened with losing collective bargaining

Homeless charity workers to strike against intransigent management

Southampton trade unionists say "defend the right to strike!"

Strong support for PCS Broad Left Network

East London uni and bin worker strikes


US election

How can Trump be ousted from the White House?


Campaigns and party news

Salford 'no-cuts' budget includes cuts and tax rises

Stoke council unions beat pay cuts - now let's stop all cuts

Is there an anti-cuts rebellion in Scotland?

Socialist Party joins International Women's Day protests

Housing workers explain reality to idiot Boris Johnson

Swansea: Ask anyone about state of services, you will hear the real story

Camarthenshire: Councillors' 'walk of shame'

Student occupation in support of striking workers

Selling the Socialist

Socialist Party executive committee positions


International news

Greece-Turkey border refugee crisis


Women's and trans rights

Women's rights, trans rights and the labour movement


Readers' opinion

Film: Greed directed by Michael Winterbottom

Childcare - costly, inadequate and hard work

Book: Why you should be a trade unionist by Unite general secretary Len McCluskey

The Socialist Inbox


 

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