A new NHS private contract - but the fight for fair pay is far from over
PUBLISHED: 08:30 22 August 2020
First the bad news: on July 29, Homerton Hospital’s board of directors rubber-stamped another five-year contract with Danish-based company giant ISS, valued at £50 million.
The contract covers ‘facility management’ – cleaning, catering, portering and reception/security services – and involves some 200 employees. The vast majority of those are women, while more than three quarters come from black or minority ethnic backgrounds.
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The board’s decision came despite a sustained GMB and Unison campaign calling for a return to direct NHS employment, with 3,000+ signing petitions and dozens joining online meetings to pressure the board. The board, chaired by ex-senior civil servant Sir John Gieve, insisted that senior management lacked “band-with” amidst the Covid crisis, yet politely ignored Hackney Council’s offer to assist with the insourcing of facility management. Sir John seems extremely comfortable with the trust underwriting a multinational corporation’s profit so long as this restrains key workers’ pay.
But here’s some better news: the new ISS contract, effective from October 1, will provide some improvements. ISS employees are finally guaranteed to receive at least the London Living Wage as a basic hourly rate and, crucially, all of these outsourced workers will be eligible for occupational sick pay in line with the NHS scheme. This is a dramatic improvement on miserly statutory sick pay provision, which amounts to just £95.85 a week and is only paid after three days off sick. Introduction of the NHS scheme marks a real victory for the campaign, but also a triumph for common sense.
After all, effectively compelling ill people to work in a hospital setting also endangers patient safety.
Even with the improvements, the contract still leaves a yawning gap of more than £1,500 a year in basic pay between ISS staff and the lowest paid NHS employees, so this fight is far from over.
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