Cash-strapped NHS workers at hospitals on the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic have threatened to walk out after being hit with emergency taxes amid a pay dispute with Danish outsourcer ISS.
About 70 workers at the University Hospital Lewisham and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital have faced delayed or incorrect payments of their wages in the past few weeks.
Copenhagen-listed ISS has about 450 cleaners, caterers and porters at the two hospitals in southeast London.
The weeks-long dispute with the private contractor follows problems with ISS’s payroll system after attempts to transfer staff, who earn £8.23 an hour, to a new system. Some employees have been charged additional tax due to changes in the frequency of their pay.
ISS, which provides companies with services from cleaning and catering to call centres and security, said it has taken urgent action to resolve the issue, including arranging emergency payments for staff. The outsourcer added that it had apologised to all affected employees.
GMB – one of Britain’s biggest trade unions – said that ISS’s treatment of its workforce was unacceptable.
Helen O’Connor, an organiser for the union, said: “We are in the middle of a national emergency and the way our hospital workers are treated is now coming into sharp focus. Every health worker needs to be tested, paid and protected through this crisis or patients and the public will be put at risk.”
A spokesman for ISS said: “As a responsible employer, we did everything within our power to rectify the situation without any delay. All queries that have been raised to us have been rectified and payments have been made.
“With regards to emergency tax, whilst this is a matter for individuals and HMRC, we are helping our employees through this. It is important to note that the issue has not affected the service we provide.”