Covid-19 sample couriers vote on strike

Submitted by AWL on 12 May, 2020 - 8:04 Author: Zack Muddle, treasurer of Bristol Couriers’ Network — IWGB
Workers from The Doctors Laboratory

Picture from a strike at The Doctors Laboratory before Covid-19 crisis.

Medical couriers transporting Covid-19 samples on behalf of NHS pathology contractor The Doctors Laboratory (TDL) will vote on strike action, in response to the company’s decision to make redundancies during the pandemic, and its failure to address health and safety concerns.

The IWGB union — who represent a majority of the 140 medical couriers — issued a notice of strike ballot on 6 May, following TDL’s 1 May announcement of a 30-day consultation aiming to make ten couriers redundant. The strike ballot will run from 13 to 27 May.

One courier threatened with redundancy is the Chair of the Couriers and Logistics Branch of the union, who has been extremely high profile in leading the battle against TDL. He has fought hard for improvements since 2016, lifting dozens of TDL couriers out of poverty. Recently he has been raising multiple health and safety issues with TDL, especially in regard of the company’s lack of PPE.

These redundancies are a thinly veiled assault on trade unionists using cover of the pandemic.

The strike is also over the company’s failure to address a number of demands the workers have made to ensure their health and safety.

For the last two months, the couriers have been going into hospitals with a high concentration of Covid-19 patients to pick up Covid-19 samples and deliver them safely to pathology labs.

Despite repeated demands the company has failed to: give full self-isolation pay to those at high-risk; regularly test couriers; provide adequate PPE; implement social distancing where possible; reinstate an unfairly dismissed courier with a series medical conditions.

TDL turns over large profits and could afford such measures if desired.

After a letter-writing campaign over the threatened redundancies, TDL have threatened to sue IWGB.

• More on the IWGB website.

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