On 30st March, a cleaner at Arndale Shopping Centre in Manchester collapsed with Coronavirus symptoms and was rushed to hospital.
According to the Manchester Evening News, she had been symptomatic for days but continued coming to work because she feared not getting paid.
Her employer OCS said “all staff are paid sick pay from day one of self-isolation, at a level commensurate with their contract of employment and fully in accordance with Government guidelines.” However, this a cynical play on words. Government guidelines state that any worker without entitlement to full sick pay will get Statutory Sick Pay. Statutory Sick Pay is just £94.25 a week, less than a third of the take home pay of a minimum wage worker.
OCS is one of a handful of “facilities management” firms that has refused to pay full sick and self-isolation pay to all its workers. Despite following government guidelines it seems highly likely that this OCS worker genuinely could not afford to be sick.
A fellow worker said the cleaner had been working “all over this shopping centre” for several days “coughing her head off”. It took 4 hours for the paramedics to attend and she was taken to Manchester Royal Infirmary where she recovered and was discharged. How many more cases of Coronavirus may now spread from the Arndale shopping centre? How much more pressure on the already overstretched NHS services? And all because OCS bosses care more about their own self-enrichment than the international effort to slow the spread of COVID19.
OCS is a multinational corporation that recorded £97 million pre-tax profits in the past three years, including from its contracts in the NHS. The beneficiaries of these profits are now safe in their private residences while the workers who produced those profits are on the frontline, risking their health to keep the essential services operating. The profit hunger of OCS shareholders, which denies basic rights to full sick and selfisolation pay, puts all essential workers and service-users at risk.