Hospital cleaners move towards strike action after three colleagues die of coronavirus

Outsourced cleaners at Tooting Hospital are this evening meeting to discuss strike action following the death of three colleagues from coronavirus.

The GMB members, employed by Mitie, are concerned for their own safety, claiming there is insufficient PPE and they were inadequately briefed about the detailed risks of coronavirus. They previously warned they were struggling to maintain cleaning standards at the hospital because of falling staff levels and insufficient cleaning equipment

They last year voted for strike action against cuts to their hours, but did not take action after the employer made concessions.

The GMB says up to 16 cleaners at the hospital have caught coronavirus. Three –  Fyngs Mullins, Salil Hasan and another cleaner whose name their family did not want to be mentioned – have passed away.

GMB organiser Helen O’Connor paid tribute to Fyngs Mullins, saying: “He was a very gentle person, committed to his union and he joined the dispute because he cared about the hospital and the patients and he didn’t want the hospital wards to be dirty.”

Ahead of this evening’s meeting, she added: “Once again, the failure of private contractors to keep our hospitals safe is laid bare. Hospitals are petri dishes for infection, so thorough cleaning is absolutely vital – but especially when there is an infection killing people.

“Staff are working all hours to make ends meet and that exposes them to huge risk.

“I spoke directly to health secretary Matt Hancock two years ago about the public health risk of this contract, particularly with people working when sick. It was dangerous even then – and how much more now. Right now, cleaning floors and surfaces is crucial.”

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