Lewisham Hospital workers fight for living wage in new private contract

GMB members at Lewisham Hospital Pic: Caitlin Griffith

Lewisham hospital workers due to be employed by a private company are demanding guarantees that the promise of a pay increase will be implemented as soon as the contract begins.

Private health contractors ISS were awarded a contract earlier this year for portering, cleaning, catering, pest control, post room, waste and linen services across Lewisham and Greenwich Trust’s facilities from February 2020.   

However the GMB union, which represents some Lewisham Hospital workers, is concerned that no date has been given for implementation of an agreement by ISS to pay the London Living Wage. Staff have been told that they need to complete a training programme before receiving the increase.

The union says that staff on “poverty pay” will be forced to wait several months before they see any increase in pay, due to the conditions imposed by ISS.   

Paul Maloney, GMB southern regional secretary, told Eastlondonlines: “They’ve made a promise that they’ll pay living wage at some point in the future. But the promise of jam tomorrow does nothing to put bread on the table today. We want the living wage at the point of transfer, not in the future.”   

According to the union, hospital staff “welcome the opportunity to receive training” but are concerned that there are no details of the training, who is assessing it or the consequences if they don’t pass.    

Labour parliamentary candidate for Lewisham East, Janet Daby, told a rally of workers at Lewisham Hospital this week: “Staff should be paid well, they deserve sick pay, they deserve a pension. In-work poverty is a disgrace, having to go to food banks should not happen. Some staff feel that they are being treated like slaves at work. We demand more.”    

Lewisham Hospital Pic: Caitlin Griffith

Helen O’Connor, GMB regional organiser, told Eastlondonlines: “Workers are disappointed that they are having to wait a further seven months before they get wages they can live on. Many are in debt from having to borrow money to get by and they cannot afford their bills or to feed their families.”   

The Lewisham and Greenwich Trust told Eastlondonlines: “It was agreed that ISS would pay staff at least £10.55 per hour upon completion of a three-month staff training programme. We are pleased that the ISS contract represents good value for taxpayers’ money and gives all these valued staff a significant increase in pay. Both ISS and Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust are committed to making our hospitals and community health services great places to work.”    

The union also claims that outsourcing leads to a drop in standards in the NHS as well as a reduction in the quality and quantity of staff, which can have life-threatening consequences for the public.   

GMB members outside Lewisham Hospital

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