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Colleagues down tools as two cleaners at Ministry of Justice die from suspected Covid-19
United Voices of the World Union members at the Ministry of Justice walked off the job on Tuesday, International Workers Memorial Day, in response to two of their colleagues dying from suspected Covid-19.
The cleaners claim they have been forced to work throughout lockdown despite repeatedly complaining of inadequate PPE, to their employer OCS Group.
One of the cleaners who died was named as Emmanuel - originally from from Guinea Bissau. The UVW says he had worked at the MoJ since February 2018 and could not afford to take time off when he fell ill. He worked until the day he died, with colleagues reporting that he was on the brink of collapse with fatigue and was delirious with fever when leaving work.
It is reported that Emmanuel had not eaten at all, or had barely eaten, during the five days before his death and he was so weak in the hours before his death that he barely knew where he was or how to get home. The Union claims that neither the MoJ nor OCS bothered to help him or call an ambulance, and he left work and died on 23rd April, 2020 at 22:30.
Emmanuel was an agency worker for two years, despite - according to UVW - repeatedly asking OCS to make him a permanent employee. As an agency worker, he was not entitled to holidays or sick pay and had no security when taking strike action or engaging in other union events. Despite the risks, Emmanuel chose to go on strike twice to demand a living wage and sick pay.
In early 2020, OCS made Emmanuel a permanent employee. When he fell ill a few weeks ago, he only continued to attend work because the MoJ and OCS refused to offer him any sick pay, despite Emmanuel and his co-workers fighting for years to get a proper sick pay scheme, reports the UVW.
Instead, Emmanuel, like millions of other workers, was only entitled to Statutory Sick Pay. SSP provides no money for the first three days of illness and £19.17 a day thereafter. Emmanuel simply could not afford to take time off work to seek medical treatment and recover.
The UVW is demanding that the MoJ and OCS are held to account, arguing that every worker deserves full pay sick pay from day one of illness. "It is literally a matter of life and death, and not just during COVID-19," it says. "The Coronavirus pandemic is wreaking havoc on the lives and livelihoods of working class people across the UK. UVW members are on the frontline, risking their health and lives. They are at risk of further poverty and financial hardship and some are losing their lives to the virus.
"We need your continued support to continue the fight and make it out of this crisis, together. We are asking you to call and email bosses at the Ministry of Justice and OCS, the outsourcing company that employed Emmanuel, demanding a living wage, occupational sick pay, and proper health & safety protections for all of their employees."
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30th April 2020