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Covid-19 couriers first key workers to strike during pandemic following victimisation by NHS contractor TDL

10 June 2020 06:47
  • Couriers to strike Wednesday 10 June over redundancies and TDL’s refusal to address staff’s health and safety concerns.
  • John McDonnell MP, Kate Osamor MP and Owen Jones confirmed to speak on a virtual picket line, with events scheduled 10-13.00.
  • The IWGB is also bringing a trade union victimisation and whistleblower claim against TDL, where union members were referred to as ‘troublemakers’.

10 June: Medical couriers who have been transporting Covid-19 samples for multi-million pound NHS contractor The Doctors Laboratory (TDL) are taking strike action on Wednesday 10 June,  in response to the company’s decision to make redundancies during the pandemic, and its failure to address health and safety concerns.

A virtual picket line will be held online via Zoom from 10.00-13.00, with confirmed speakers including Kate Osamor MP, Owen Jones and John McDonnell MP. A solidarity protest will also be held in Australia at the HQ of Sonic Healthcare, of which TDL is a subsidiary.

The vast majority of the ten workers being targeted for redundancy, have been active in demanding better and safer working conditions.

One of them, Alex Marshall, is a key organiser who blew the whistle on the company’s unsafe practices and has been featured on a number of media, including the BBC’s Panorama, Sky News, Al Jazeera and the Guardian.

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which has already filed a trade union victimisation and whistleblower victimisation claim, has been made aware that senior management frequently referred to union members as “troublemakers” and recruited a ‘Head of Logistics’ specifically to undermine union activity at TDL. Members are also now reporting harassment by managers in relation to the strike, which will be the first by key workers since the pandemic began.

TDL has also refused to meet repeated health and safety demands, including adequate PPE, social distancing and regular Covid-19 testing for couriers that enter wards to collect coronavirus samples, the medical value of which has been dismissed by TDL despite the company profiting directly from it.

This approach by the company could pose a grave risk to couriers and the public at large Couriers are concerned about their capacity to become ‘super spreaders’ of the virus because their job involves travel and contact with large numbers of people, many of whom are high-risk, in hospital or shielding at home.

TDL cycle courier and IWGB couriers and logistics branch chair Alex Marshall says: “We won holiday pay, pensions and pay rises, so management have always had us in their sights. Blowing the whistle on practices that put lives at risk from Covid-19 was the final straw for them. TDL has used this crisis as a smokescreen to target and make an example of us, but I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s us who need to make an example of companies like TDL, to show trade union victimisation won’t be tolerated - nor will gambling with people’s lives.”

For more information:

[email protected]

Notes for editors:

  • Zoom link (virtual picket line): https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81203830415?pwd=TnpVNVRKVnZoc3F6ZTltNHpVZmtCdz09
  • TDL’s profits have increased from £6m in 2008 to over £28m last year and the company paid £75m in dividends to Sonic Healthcare between 2014 and 2018.
  • As part of its campaign, the IWGB is also sending a detailed 60-page dossier raising concerns about TDL’s practices to 200 Sonic Healthcare investors.
  • The IWGB represents the majority of the 152 medical couriers working for TDL in London and the South East.
  • Virtual picket line speakers and times:
  • 10-11am: word from the TDL 10, Panorama screening, placard making
  • 11-12pm: updates from the campaign
  • 12-1pm: rally, confirmed speakers are John McDonnell MP, Kate Osamor MP, Owen Jones, Robert Car (May 1 Movement), Thomas Costa (NSW)

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