Local hospitals to be affected by industrial action this week
Couriers working for NHS contractor the Doctors Laboratory (TDL) are to go on strike on 23 and 24 May. This means that blood deliveries and some pathology services may be disrupted at local hospitals.
About 100 cyclists, motorcyclists and van drivers are taking industrial action after what they claim is a decade of stagnating pay and two rounds of pay cuts in 2015 and 2017
Couriers deliver emergency blood and pathology samples to a number of NHS hospitals in London and the South East. The striking couriers say that TDL has given massive pay increases to its top executives, as well as £ 60m in dividend payments to its investors. The company’s top two executives, reportedly earned a combined £ 2.6 million in 2017, far more than any NHS manager. The company says that if the couriers’ demands were all met they would be more highly paid than junior doctors.
The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which represents the vast majority of the over 100 couriers working at TDL, is demanding that the company reverse previous pay cuts, cover the couriers' costs and implement pay increases to make up for the number of years in which these workers have had these rights denied.
TDL admitted in June 2017 that it had wrongly classifying some couriers as independent contractors rather than workers. The admission opened the possibility for the IWGB to create a collective bargaining unit among the courier division, which includes walkers, pushbike couriers, motorbike riders and van drivers, something it secured last spring after a ruling by the Central Arbitration Committee.
The collective bargaining negotiations failed to secure a deal that would reverse what the union says is an approximately 30% pay cut from 2015 or the 15% cut in take-home pay, which resulted from an office move and rate changes in 2017. Additional pay increases are also being claimed for what the union describes as the dangerous nature of the job.
TDL has since tried to introduce new employee contracts that the union say would result in the couriers taking further cuts in pay. It is also claimed that the company has been hiring new couriers on these contracts who are not union members and reducing the number of orders given to existing couriers.
Alex Marshall, a TDL courier and chair of the IWGB’s Couriers and Logistics Branch, said: “While TDL investors and managers get fat off of NHS contracts, the couriers that risk their lives every day to deliver emergency blood and pathology samples are being left to suffer under a regime of pay cuts and neglect. We are proud of the work we do, but that doesn't mean we will allow bully managers to continue to take us for a ride. We deserve respect and decent pay.”
TDL serves NHS hospitals through HSL, a partnership between TDL, University College Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust. Hospitals served include Chelsea and Westminster hospital, Hammersmith hospital, Ealing Hospital, West Middlesex University hospital, Charing Cross hospital and St George’s hospital Tooting.
TDL said that all the couriers working with them was paid above the voluntary London living wage and all received holiday pay and pensions contributions after being recognised as workers.
A spokesperson for TDK said, “It’s exceptionally disappointing that a minority of our couriers, already some of the best paid in London … have elected to strike.
“While our couriers provide a vital service, their demands for annual take home pay higher than the average junior doctor’s and nearly twice that of a ward sister, cannot be deemed reasonable.
“Their intention is to disrupt the transportation of medical samples from GP surgeries, clinics and hospitals to our laboratories. Our customers and their patients should be reassured that TDL has robust plans in place to mitigate any impact on our service.”
May 28, 2019