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NHS delivery drivers gatecrash staff party

Hospital couriers, who are involved in a tense dispute over pay, protest after being ‘excluded’ from their firm’s Christmas do

07 December, 2018 — By Tom Foot

The IWGB hospital couriers protest outside the party at the Museum of London

NHS hospital couriers hijacked a Christmas party after being “excluded” by bosses.

Unionised delivery drivers working for The ­Doctors Laboratory (TDL) say they did not get an invitation to their employers’ official staff do at the Museum of London on Monday.

So a group of around 30 couriers and campaigners – who are in a tense dispute with the company over pay – turned up and protested in the foyer of the building.

Max Dewhurst, vice-president of the Independent Workers of Great Britain, said: “Having denied its couriers basic rights for years, TDL now leaves them out in the cold, uninvited to the staff Christmas ­party. The symbolism is poignant as management continues trying to divide and conquer its workers who are demanding equal pay and treatment.”

TDL, based in Fitzrovia, provides pathology services to hospitals and NHS trusts in Westminster and central London.

But it has faced a dispute with its couriers about employment rights status for the past two years.

The company wanted to classify its couriers as self-employed contractors with no employment rights beyond basic health and safety and anti-discrimination rules.

But a challenge from IWGB union led to an out-of-court agreement being reached. The couriers won new rights as employees with better protected status, sick leave, maternity pay and the ability to challenge unfair dismissal. But the IWGB said TDL has “dragged its feet” in enforcing the changes and “stonewalled” attempts to implement them.

A protest was held in October this year with couriers complaining they have not had a pay rise for more than 10 years.

The company is owned by Australian healthcare giant Sonic Healthcare.

A statement from TDL said: “Our courier work­force is made up of direct­ly employed individuals and those classified as workers on flexible contracts. We have always paid our worker couriers above market rates and they have had paid holidays and pension contributions since the beginning of this year. TDL has addressed all requests for clarification by the IWGB and has put forward an offer that significantly improves their pay and working conditions. We are disappointed this has not been accepted.”

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