Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1077/30404
From The Socialist newspaper, 11 March 2020
Homerton Hospital workers fight for sick pay
- Staff win right to full pay if forced to self-isolate - now demand policy made permanent
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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In The Socialist 11 March 2020:
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
Domestic Violence bill: We still need to fight to save our services
News in brief
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
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
Greece-Turkey border refugee crisis
Women's and trans rights
Women's rights, trans rights and the labour movement
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
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