Cleaners at London hospital walk out after contractor fails to pay wages – The Guardian

Cleaning staff at the first London hospital to treat a coronavirus patient have walked out after an outsourcing firm repeatedly failed to pay them properly.

Dozens of hospital cleaners – who are on the frontline of the Covid-19 outbreak – walked out of Lewisham hospital on Thursday but returned to work the following day after being promised that their pay would be corrected. This has been an ongoing issue since some employees were underpaid at the end of February.

Catering and portering staff joined them in staging a protest outside the south London hospital on Friday when they realised the money was still not in their bank accounts.

Despite reassurance from private contractor ISS that the dispute has not affected the hospital service, Helen O’Connor, an organiser for GMB, said that no cleaning took place at the hospital on Thursday. Issues with the firm’s payroll system have resulted in some employees not being properly paid in weeks.

Representatives from their union, GMB, met with ISS director Nick Clarke, who suggested it may take up to another week to resolve the pay dispute. “It has been disgusting the way they treat us,” one housekeeping staff member told the South London Press.

“We are working with coronavirus in the hospital and not getting paid for it. If we don’t clean the ward it is a state and we have a chance of catching coronavirus here.”

ISS has denied workers compensation for the crisis, according to GMB. The union also said the contractor had threatened to withhold the promise of the London living wage being paid with back pay in April if workers protested.

O’Connor said: “Our members are in dire financial straights as ISS continue to drag their heels to sort out the pay crisis in Lewisham hospital. Their loyal workers turned up to work today to clean the hospital and make sure the patients are safe. But what they are getting back from ISS is threats and broken promises. The behaviour of the ISS top brass is incredible given these jobs are vital to the hospital in normal circumstances, but in the present climate the work they do is utterly fundamental.”

Chris Ash, managing director of healthcare from ISS, said: “The issue has not affected the service we provide: we continue to maintain high standards of hygiene at the hospital, with cleaning, portering and catering services provided as normal to patients, staff and visitors.

“The error with pay affected a limited number of the staff who moved to a new pay system, after we took over the contract for these services from the previous provider last month. We are extremely sorry that this happened and are reaching out to those staff to apologise in person, and to quickly sort out any pay issues they have.”

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