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From The Socialist newspaper, 8 July 2020

Homerton hospital workers deserve equal pay and conditions

Homerton Hospital workers during an earlier dispute in 2016, photo Clare Doyle

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:

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In The Socialist 8 July 2020:


Workplace news

Fantastic virtual NSSN conference: "Fight for our lives and livelihoods''

Homerton hospital workers deserve equal pay and conditions

Jobcentre reopening: only union struggle will put safety first

Southampton UCU: election victory for combative rank and file

Tower Hamlets council workers strike against wholesale attack on terms and conditions

Nottingham unions fight council job cuts


News

Fight for every job, fight for socialism

Tory NHS betrayal

Young people have no choice but to fight the system

Leicester: End the scandal of sweatshop labour

Covid pandemic and Northern Ireland - workers must resist the bosses' offensive

1,600 less benefits if your job goes - while super-rich splash cash

Testing: Tories' 5bn gift to private sector

Johnson blames care workers for deaths

3bn green pledge: not enough for climate or jobs

Poverty rises again - especially for BAME workers

Them and us


No going back

No going back: Nationalise social care!


Campaigns

The best place to start - join the Socialist Party

Trans rights protests oppose Tory backsliding

Black Lives Matter - the fight is not over


International news

Hong Kong: The fight for democratic rights

Bangladesh: Stop closure and privatisation of Jute Mills


Readers' opinion

TV: The school that tried to end racism

Books that inspired me: The Fire Next Time

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