Cleaning staff at Lewisham hospital, where London’s first coronavirus case was confirmed, refuse to work in row over pay

Cleaning and catering workers at a hospital have said they will refuse to work during the coronavirus pandemic until an ongoing dispute with their employer over wages has been resolved.

About 30 workers at University Hospital Lewisham stopped working today after they discovered they had not been paid properly for the second time in a row, leaving many of them without enough money to pay their rent or to buy food.

The workers are currently employed by international services provider, ISS, and have been locked in a dispute since many of them were underpaid on February 27.

Today’s pay should have seen staff paid more after they were underpaid, but some workers did not receive any money, they say.

“It has been disgusting the way they treat us,” said one worker from the housekeeping staff who did not want to be identified over fears of losing her job.

“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.”

The first case of coronavirus in London was confirmed at Lewisham Hospital on February 13 when a woman checked herself in.

The worker added: “No one is helping us. So as of 7am this morning none of us are going to work.

“We are a priority need in this hospital so we should be a priority for payment.”

ISS took over service management at Lewisham Hospital in February and workers have also been in a dispute over their rate of pay, which for many is the minimum wage of £8.21 per hour.

In November, ISS promised to raise service staff wages to the London Living Wage of £10.55 pending a “three-month employee training programme”.

Another housekeeping staff member who did not want to be identified, said: “Today they only paid me one week and now I have no money.

“My son is living with me and relying on me and I can’t even cook for him, we have no food.

“People are buying food to put in their houses because of coronavirus, but we can’t buy food.

“Last time they underpaid me, too. I have a mortgage payment to make next week.”

A domestic staff member who did not want to be named said: “They short paid me on February 27. Today I received nothing at all. Zero.

“I’ve never seen a payslip so I don’t know anything about how much they pay me, my pension, nothing.

“I need to pay rent today. I am so stressed the whole day. I can’t get the strength to work. We need to get money today.”

Union representatives from GMB union were present at the hospital today demanding ISS make immediate payments to their accounts or they would not continue working.

Gary Palmer, a GMB representative, said: “Some of these workers are asking shopkeepers if they can pay for their food next week. If their landlord comes round they will be hiding behind the back of the settee. ISS are responsible for that.

“People are angry. It is naive to think people can wait day after day without pay.”

Another GMB representative, Helen O’Connor, said: “The issue exposes how dangerous outsourcing NHS services is. We’re in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic and this hospital’s cleaners are more vital than ever before.”

A spokeswoman for Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust said: “Our partners, ISS, have confirmed that they are ensuring that the hospital is being cleaned as normal.”

“We apologise to all the staff who work for our partners, ISS, who have been affected by this issue. We have been in discussions with ISS’ management team, who have been taking urgent actions to resolve the issue.

“Staff who provide soft facilities management services at University Hospital Lewisham (UHL) were transferred over to ISS in February 2020, as ISS took over the contract for these services for the Trust. This meant that ISS moved these staff over to a new pay system.

“We are so sorry that there have been administrative problems with the new pay system, so not all the ISS staff at UHL were paid correctly. ISS has been taking urgent action to resolve the issue – running pay clinics to ensure that all staff are paid in full. ISS is also meeting all staff who have been affected by this issue to ensure it does not happen again.”

An ISS spokeswoman said: “ISS has recently transferred a large number of employees on to their payroll at the University Hospital Lewisham.

“This has involved moving to a different pay cycle and process for employees transferring to ISS.

“We are very sorry that some employees have not been paid correctly and we have been taking urgent action to resolve any issues.

“We have arranged drop-in sessions and 1:1s to meet employees who have had an issue and to ensure that they are paid in full.

“We are committed to ensuring a smooth mobilisation and encourage any employees with queries to contact us directly so that we can answer any questions and rectify any issues as swiftly as possible.”


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13 thoughts on “Cleaning staff at Lewisham hospital, where London’s first coronavirus case was confirmed, refuse to work in row over pay

  • I’m appalled by this. This employers should be greatly ashamed of themselves. At such a crucial time, Hospital staffs are left with no security? What an unpleasant autherity!
    I hope they lose their contract. Whatever the case, they don’t deserve to represent in a care setting AT ALL!!!

  • Shocking behaviour from ISS! The cleaners have been working hard to keep coronavirus at bay – and putting themselves at risk themselves by doing so. ISS is putting lives in danger by penny-pinching like this.

  • This is an absolute disgrace. Lowest of the low paid NHS workers being treated like this in the midst of a pandemic. The service should be brought back in-house immediately and ISS given their marching orders.

  • Nat Robinson

    I blame the Hospital Management for outsourcing to the contractor ISS.
    I agree it should be, most definitely, brought back to in-house.
    This is unprofessional practice and management should have resolved the payment problem from February.
    It just an excuses that they are making to disguise their unprofessionalism and how they mistreat their employees.

  • Fine words do not pay bills.
    Instead of platitudes, Lewisham Hospital needs to get out it’s chequebook and pay the workers, and deduct this from any payment due to ISS. Plus fine them for the disruption.

  • ISS have form for underpaying people. Had a friend and her hubby new to the country in 2008 or 2009 work for them and they were being underpaid. It took a family member of mine who worked in the law field to draft a strongly worded letter outlining their responsibilities in law – payslips, holiday, having a contract and threatening legal action etc. They could not pay her and her husband quick enough and even gave her flowers . They take the mick with those who they think won’t fight back….10 years later and it’s the same thing… shameful

  • Ruari Wheeler

    The people in charge should be ashamed .

    These people are working hard and they should be rewarded not shunned.

    Give them respect

  • Jacqueline Smith

    Not surprised by ISS actions. Why did they win the contract for the cleansing of facilities? Assuming they promised much at extremely low cost!!
    As a result they have failed to;
    A) Ensure that all employees are paid the London Living Wage.
    B) Rectified the immediate underpayment of last month’s salaries.

    Should hang their heads in shame!

  • Pat Barnett

    I used to work with a company who outsourced it’s facilities to ISS the change was shocking, most of the long time employees are looking for other jobs. Appalling company to work for.

  • Sharon john

    I’m a school cleaner and get paid during all the shut downs I work for a lovely school I’m very lucky to be paid whilst being at home I agree it’s not great pay I have a partner who works also and gets good money I feel sorry for workers who only have that one wage why should they work and not get paid there is always a excuse the people in the job sorting their wages is getting paid I suppose we are crucial at this time keeping places clean and hopefully germ free good luck I hope the situation is resolved soon .

  • Bela Kovacs

    ISS have done the same to their employees at EY. Always the same excuse: changing pay day and period….. still play around overtime pay!!!!
    Pay the minimum pension and treat employee very bad

  • Chief Executive Ben Travis on £180k per annum should sort this out pronto. Contract should be taken back in house so staff are on NHS terms and conditions.

  • £8.21 for a job that makes a major contribution to infection control?
    And Lewisham, outsourcing in-house cleaning services, should they not retain their pay and conditions of service
    Should there not have been some oversight of the transfer process.
    I’m not sure why it takes the company so long to pay London Living Wage or why it takes 3 months of staff training, this implies they were not trained before which is a bit worrying
    Anyone still think the NHS is not really being privatised ?


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