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Migrant cleaners at London Bridge Hospital whistleblow on Covid safety violations

Mon, Feb 14, 2022, 10:15 AM

Migrant cleaners at London Bridge Hospital whistleblow on Covid safety violations and launch campaign against HCA Healthcare which pocketed NHS millions in the pandemic.

  • Throughout the pandemic cleaners have been denied PPE, vaccinations, changing rooms, and forced to clean Covid wards without proper training or cross-contamination protocols.
  • During the pandemic, HCA Healthcare generated $51.5 billion in 2020 alone and claimed £3 million under the furlough scheme but was also paid an additional £190 million by the NHS which it is now being asked to repay.
  • Workers say they are treated like second-class citizens, subjected to overwork, bullying and harassment and denied equal rights to sick pay and holiday pay.

Monday 14 February: Outsourced migrant workers from the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) who clean at London Bridge Hospital today launch a campaign for fair pay and equality. They also report endemic bullying, harassment and a slew of serious health and safety violations over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The campaign targets their employers, Compass Group and London Bridge Hospital, a private hospital owned by the world’s largest healthcare multinational Health Corporation of America (HCA) Healthcare. During the pandemic, HCA Healthcare generated $51.5 billion in 2020 alone and claimed £3 million under the furlough scheme but was also paid an additional £190 million by the NHS which it is now being asked to repay. Meanwhile, profit margins for its US parent company soared nearly 40 per cent to £7 billion. Outsourced cleaners at London Bridge Hospital are paid £9.36 per hour.

Cleaners are instructed to clean Covid wards without adequate training, prior warning of contamination risk, PPE, or uniforms. Cleaners are given no time to wash before going on to cleaning wards with other patients. Several workers contracted Covid during the pandemic and were forced to isolate without pay. Many cleaners cannot afford the unpaid sick leave and are forced to work while ill. Meanwhile overwork, harassment and bullying by management has caused severe stress and mental health issues.

Cleaners are demanding that London Bridge Hospital immediately address health and safety concerns, end the culture of bullying and overwork, pay £12.50/hr with the same terms and conditions as directly-employed staff. This includes allowing outsourced workers as well as staff to be treated at the hospital if they become ill or injured.

Mariana Blanco*, Cleaner, says: “We feel like second-class citizens here. Our safety isn’t taken seriously. I have asthma and my safety is put at risk every single day. We haven't had proper training or basic safety equipment. We are harassed by managers and we are underpaid and undervalued. The pay is so low I have to fight every day to support my family.”

Ramona Marredo Mendez, Cleaner, says: “We risk our lives working here. The managers have sent us to clean areas full of infected people without PPE. When I caught covid at work, I was forced to isolate for two weeks without the sick pay that directly-employed workers get. The pay is already so low, I can’t afford to take two weeks off on £96.35 a week. When I asked Compass for support in accessing the statutory sick pay, they did nothing so I ended up at home for two weeks with no money.”

Henry Chango Lopez, General Secretary (IWGB), says: “It is completely unacceptable that a multi-billion dollar company that took £190 million of NHS money during the pandemic is forcing its outsourced cleaners to work in dangerous conditions for poverty pay. Cleaners are key workers and they perform indispensable, risky work at London Bridge Hospital yet this majority-migrant workforce are treated like second-class citizens. They have been denied basic PPE, they have suffered harassment from management, and they lack the proper sick pay and access to the hospital facilities enjoyed by other directly-employed colleagues. Compass and London Bridge Hospital need to give their key workers the pay, conditions, and respect that they deserve.”

*Name has been changed to protect the anonymity of this cleaner.

Interviews with interpretation are available on request.

For more information, please contact:

Marienna Pope-Weidemann, Head of Communications (IWGB)

press@iwgb.co.uk / 07380 194 788

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