UPDATE 23/04/2020: GMB Union are reporting a ‘significant’ win for Lewisham Hospital’s cleaners after ISS (their employer) agreed to up their hourly rate of pay. This victory comes after a drawn out campaign by the cleaners and their union and a number of protests and events. At Ladywell Live, we had organised an online event to find out more about the ongoing campaign only a month ago in March. At the time there were concerns about the cleaners’ lack of pay as well as about their safety during the Coronavirus crisis. Helen O’Connor, GMB Union organiser has said: ‘Our members want to thank everyone who supported their pay campaign. The success of the Lewisham Hospital campaign shows that when unions and communities work together to stand up for themselves ,they can and do win against corporate power.’
UPDATE 26/03/2020: As of Thursday 26 March 2020, as many as eight of Lewisham Hospital’s cleaners were still not fully paid. At a time of additional strain on the hospital and increased risk to all staff working there, some of the cleaners are deciding to give up on their jobs, not willing to put their lives ‘at risk “for pearnuts”‘. To find out more about the background to this, please read our report below from our online event with Helen O’Connor, the GMB Union organiser who has been campaigning with the cleaners.
Our online event on the Lewisham Hospital cleaners
During our first ever online event, members of our Ladywell community and beyond came together to listen to the stories of Lewisham Hospital workers and their continued fight for fair pay.
Helen O’Connor, GMB Union organiser and former nurse, spoke to us about the ongoing campaign and warned that next Thursday pay day (26 March 2020) might be marred by further protests if ISS do not follow through on paying their cleaning staff on time.
We will make sure to report the latest on this, but you can also follow Helen directly on Twitter for regular updates.
Private contractor ISS came in for particular criticism during our event, not just because of their behaviour towards Lewisham Hospital staff: community members recounted their experiences of the contractor at other local institutions like Goldsmiths University.
In addition to staff not being paid, of particular concern was the fact that there is a shortage of the necessary equipment and procedures to protect staff from infection at a time when hospitals are being overrun due to the coronavirus. A community member who is also a frontline worker joined in with his own shocking experience of ambulance drivers facing hand sanitiser and protective equipment shortages.
On the question on what we can do further as a community to support vulnerable yet key workers like the Lewisham Hospital cleaners, Helen O’Connor stressed the importance of community backing: “The cleaners are so happy to have the community standing with them.” There seemed to also be consensus that the community should keep informed. Helen is also communicating with local councillors and MPs about the issue.
You can also view footage of some of the cleaners’ testimony on what has been happening here.
Ways to help
Hardship fund for Lewisham Hospital Cleaners
GMB have set up a hardship fund to help some of the cleaners as some of them are still waiting for payment. You can make a donation as per the below details:
Sort code: 60-83-01
Statement in support of Lewisham Hospital Workers
A statement in support of Lewisham Hospital workers has been signed by many residents and councilors. You can add your name here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ROnnVR_c8E4724N2jljJ0ND274ku7Q1tJdvxXQUcuVQ/edit?fbclid=IwAR0E2LHYl8NED7IGmsxXrm8Q68jsO7WNyG64t0r8FkrDIRGYzuZOg5FFV1w
We will be keeping an eye on developments next week and we are open to suggestions of what else our community can do to help these key workers get the support they need at a time when they are looking out for our own health and safety.