BY JAMES TWOMEY
Hospital workers living on the breadline have been told a pay raise they “desperately need” may be delayed until May 2020.
Dorothy Kallo, 58, from New Cross earns less than £9 per hour and has worked as a caterer at University Hospital Lewisham for 10 years.
“We can’t live like this. We get paid on the 11th and by the 14th the money’s all gone.
We are really struggling,” said Dorothy. “I have three kids and seven grandkids. I give them what I can but sometimes we cannot manage.
“Some people are afraid to come out in case they lose their job but hopefully that won’t happen.
“I can’t explain how difficult life is because when you (calculate) your wages each month you have nothing left. How can you cope?”
More than 30 housekeeping, catering and cleaning workers protested outside the hospital on Wednesday afternoon and marched to Lewisham Shopping Centre.
The workers are currently employed by Interserve, but will become ISS employees in February.
ISS told workers they would receive the London living wage of £10.55 per hour, but now they say it will only be awarded on completion of a three-month training programme, making May 2020 the earliest possible time the workers will see a pay rise.
The GMB union represents many of the workers, and regional organiser Helen O’Connor said: “The fact that the London Living Wage will eventually be implemented in Lewisham Hospital represents a partial victory for GMB members who protested in large numbers outside the hospital a month ago.
“However, GMB thinks it is an absolute disgrace that workers on poverty pay are being forced to wait a further seven months to get wages that they can live on. The promise of jam tomorrow does nothing to put bread on our members’ table today.
“We welcome training for our members but we have not seen the detail and GMB Union is clear that we will oppose any use of testing or assessment as a cynical tactic to either deny these workers a living wage or even sack experienced workers to reduce costs.”
Karen Brown, 48, from Sydenham, works in the housekeeping team and said that workers have to borrow money or go to food banks to survive.
“We’re bankrupt. How can you survive after you pay taxes and buy a bus pass?
“Sometimes you have to borrow money. The government isn’t helping us. At the end of the month there’s nothing left. Sometimes you can’t buy food.
“The way they make us work as well is bad. There’s one person per ward with 28 beds, five toilets and all the linen to clean. It’s too much.
“Everyone needs to come and see what it’s like. All of us are scared.”
A spokeswoman for ISS said: “Earlier this month Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust announced that ISS had been chosen to run the Trust-wide contract for porterage, cleaning, catering, pest control, post room, the facilities helpdesk and switchboard, waste and linen services.
“The new contract for these ‘soft facilities management’ services will start in February 2020.
As part of the contract, it was agreed that ISS would pay its employees a minimum of £10.55 an hour.
“To meet the high standards and levels of patient care and support agreed through the new contract, ISS will be running an employee training programme within the first three months of the contract.
“When all team members have completed the training, those currently being paid £8.21 will receive an increase to £10.55, the London Living Wage at the time the contract was agreed. This increase will be backdated to February 1, 2020.
“We are pleased that the ISS contract represents good value for taxpayers’ money and gives all these valued employees a significant increase in pay.
Both ISS and Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust are committed to making our hospitals and community health services places great places to work.”
An Interserve spokesman said: “We are paying our colleagues in line with our contractual obligations as set by Lewisham Hospital NHS Trust.
“We pride ourselves on the excellent work carried out by our frontline colleagues to support this crucial service.”