BY JAMES TWOMEY
Hospital workers lined up to receive food parcels from a union after their pay structure changed, leaving some of them without pay for up to a fortnight.
Cleaners, porters and security staff at the Princess Royal University Hospital in Bromley, and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich were among the workers that queued for food packages last Friday after a bitter pay dispute with their employers ISS.
The workers protested outside the hospital earlier this month against the global facilities supplier, which is withholding pay from workers in order to rearrange the dates when all workers are paid.
The workers’ union, GMB, organised the event and brought food packages for the employees who say the change in pay has made it difficult to buy essential items. Terry Xerri, a hospital worker at the Princess Royal, said: “This has impacted me a lot.
I can’t afford to buy day-to-day necessities so I have to either go without or I go into my overdraft even more. I am really angry with ISS for putting me and my family through this.”
ISS offered its workers loans against their pay cheques to make up for the shortfall in cash during this period. A porter from Queen Elizabeth Hospital, who wished not to be named, said: “I am the only earner in the house and I have a two-year-old.
It was his birthday and he didn’t get a present. I have not eaten myself for three days because of this. I don’t want to get into even more debt so I didn’t take the ISS loan. This is really unfair on me and my family.”
Helen O’Connor, GMB Regional Organiser, said: “We were mobbed by desperate workers who wanted to collect food parcels to feed their families. Today marked the first week when ISS workers received no pay for hours worked.
“In spite of the fact that ISS management imposed this situation on our members and they know how desperate they are, they still guarded the door of the hospital and actively tried to stop their workers coming out to collect food.
“GMB members defied threats of sackings and disciplinaries to come out to collect food provided for them by their union. “One domestic who didn’t want to be named was told she would be sacked if she came to collect food.
“One of the porters complained of an ‘increase in bullying from management now that we are all joining the union’. Each and every case of bullying will be taken up and addressed by GMB trade union until ISS managers start to respect the rights of their workers.
“No hospital worker ever wants to go on strike because they care about the hospital and the patients just as much as the doctors and nurses do.
The reality however is that in driving down the pay, terms and conditions of hospital workers ISS is driving experienced workers out of the health service.”
An ISS spokesman said: “We are disappointed to hear about the [unofficial] protest which a small number of members of the GMB union held at our client site at Princess Royal University Hospital in Bromley.
We understand that members of the union taking part in the protest were offered biscuits and chocolates during this time.
ISS take employee wellbeing very seriously so remain, as always, open to discussion with the team onsite and our client, to resolve any concerns they may have.”