Unison secures full sick pay for cleaner battling with cancer

A long-time school cleaner in her late 60s, who is undergoing intensive treatments for cancer, had a modest windfall at the end of January. Camden Council’s cleaning and maintenance contractor, the Danish-based multinational ISS, finally agreed to pay her Occupational Sick Pay (OSP). The cleaner had originally started work well over 20 years before as a Camden employee and had toiled continuously ever since for a number of private contractors after Camden first outsourced the cleaning function, so she should have retained her entitlement to the local government sick pay scheme (six months full pay for up to six months) under the protection afforded by the TUPE regulations.

ISS had initially claimed that there was no evidence provided by the previous contractor, MITIE, that the worker had established prior TUPE protection, but Camden UNISON persisted and six weeks later after first raising the case the branch received word that ISS accepted the cleaner did indeed have the right to full sick pay. When contacted by UNISON, Camden HR officers were sympathetic and tried to find evidence of the orginal employment relationship, but it was the member herself who had fortunately retained correspondence from the first year of her time as a Camden employee including her original statement of terms and conditions. Subject to the production of a further medical certificate she should soon receive a further instalment of OSP worth four times more than Statutory Sick Pay.

The member concerned still has a long road to recovery, but as result of the payment of outstanding OSP she was in a position to clear a number of outstanding bills. Meanwhile, her case offers a vivid illustration of the basic day-to-day challenges outsourced workers face at the same time as proving the very real value of being a UNISON member, whoever the employer might be. Of course, we are still a very long way as a branch from providing the ISS workforce in Camden with the organisational muscle to raise their very low pay (usually pegged at the national minimum wage of £6.31 an hour) to the level of the London Living Wage (£8.80 from April) and enhance their generally poor conditions, but such small victories should encourage all existing members to recruit outsourced workers to the union and so create the basis for winning substantial gains rather than simply upholding very basic contractual rights for individuals every now and again.

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