cleaners working for ISS on the Arriva Rail North contract will be holding a protest today, Wednesday 10th April, outside Manchester Victoria station between 7am and 9am.
The protest is over plans by private contractor ISS to unilaterally change the low paid workers’ terms and conditions so that they will be forced into accepting 11 days’ pay owed in arrears.
Currently they work five days paid in arrears.
What should be paid as wages will now be paid as a loan and then clawed back by the employer. Wages owed will then be paid back only when staff leave the company.
The cleaners, all members of transport union the RMT, are concerned that, among other things, the changes could affect Universal Credit Welfare Payments, and that there hasn’t been sufficient time to change outgoing direct debit payments which means they could incur bank charges.
RMT General Secretary, Mick Cash said: ‘Our cleaners on Arriva Rail North are protesting over the worsening of their conditions that will force them to accept 11 days’ pay owed in arrears.
‘This will create significant hardship for these low paid workers.
‘No thought has been given as to how these low paid workers are going to be able to cope with the detrimental changes to their finances.
‘The move will cause unnecessary hardship and inconvenience to workers doing some of the dirtiest jobs on the railway.
‘RMT calls on ISS to withdraw these unnecessary proposals.’
Elsewhere, the GMB union has announced that it is to set up food banks for low paid hospital workers in south-east London after outsourcing giant ISS announced that wages would be paid later than usual due to the new payroll system.
GMB Southern says ISS has been asking their workforce to take out ‘bridging loans’ to cope with the holding back of wages.
ISS provides cleaning, catering, portering and security services to hospitals across Southeast London, including Lewisham, South London and Maudsley NHS Trust.
Head of Corporate Affairs for ISS, Craig Smith, claimed: ‘The new system will, most importantly, help us improve our service to employees, whilst enabling us to offer the most up-to-date payroll, employee vetting and labour management services.’
Helen O’Connor, GMB Regional Organiser said: ‘GMB will not allow senior hospital managers to turn a blind eye to the suffering of a vital part of the hospital workforce.
‘GMB Union is writing to hospital trust boards to make the point that these workers jobs are essential to the smooth running of the hospitals and will be requesting that NHS trusts who have outsourced to ISS make hardship payments to ISS workers and also to assist GMB Union to set up accessible food bank facilities on the affected hospital sites.’
O’Connor added: ‘It’s disgraceful that hard-working hospital workers are forced to turn to food banks in order to survive day to day.
‘GMB members are already angry about low pay, frequent “pay errors” leaving them short of pay and having to go into work sick due to an inadequate sick pay scheme. This “pay harmonisation drive” is the last straw.’
GMB is now appealing to clinical staff, the public and hospital patients for donations for ISS workers.
Maria Moss, North West Regional Organiser for the Unison union, said: ‘ISS is behaving recklessly with workers’ pay.
‘Most staff are only on the minimum wage and don’t have savings to tide them over.
‘Withholding pay for a week or more threatens their ability to feed their families and pay bills and rent.
‘What might seem like a simple change in pay date to ISS could have a very serious and life-changing impact on low-paid workers’ lives.’
Unison said it is being joined by Unite and GMB officials in submitting grievances to ISS, and meetings are planned with company managers this week.
Moss added: ‘ISS must make sure staff aren’t without money when the new pay arrangements are introduced. Loans must be easily accessible and workers shouldn’t be expected to repay them in just four weeks.
‘The pay changes mean hundreds of low-paid staff will only get some of the wages they’re due when they leave. This is money staff are due for hours already worked.
‘ISS needs to think again and not go any further until it’s satisfied no staff will suffer any detriment or hardship as a result.’
Meanwhile, Unison is demanding that the government must find the money to ensure tens of thousands of low-paid cleaners, porters, security guards and catering staff working for private contractors in hospitals across England receive the same pay rise as colleagues employed by the NHS.
The lowest paid workers in the NHS were given a £2,000 pay rise last year, as part of a three-year deal negotiated by health unions.
But the overwhelming majority of health staff employed on private contracts have not received a penny, says Unison.
Many outsourced staff haven’t had a wage rise in years and the growing pay divide is affecting the smooth running of the NHS.
It is also having an impact on patient care, as outsourced staff leave in search of better-paid jobs.
On the eve of its annual health conference, which is taking place in Bournemouth this week, Unison is calling on the government to come up with the funding so everyone working in the NHS earns at least £9.03 an hour.
Many staff employed by private contractors are on the minimum wage, earning just £8.21 an hour.
The NHS couldn’t function without the tens of thousands of staff who are working on private contracts, says Unison.
Every day they work alongside NHS colleagues doing similar jobs, but end up with substantially less money in their pay packets.
Unison head of health Sara Gorton said: ‘All hospital workers are part of the NHS team and should be paid fairly for the important jobs they do. The days of treating them as second class employees in the NHS must end.
‘Staff employed by private contractors are expected to deliver the same exceptional levels of service and also work under immense pressure.
‘It’s only fair they receive the same pay as colleagues, often doing identical jobs but employed by the NHS.’