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Blood Couriers Strike Over Pay Cuts in the UK

By Monica Buck

Over 100 workers of The Doctors Laboratory (TDL) accuse its executives and investors of getting rich over NHS contracts at their expense. The couriers, who provide blood deliveries and pathology services, experienced two pay cuts in 2015 and 2017 and haven’t seen any raise since. The situation is in stark contrast to the generous bonuses for the top management and the £60m paid out in dividends to the firm’s owner, Sonic Healthcare, between 2014 and 2017. The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) now called for a two-day strike.

“While TDL investors and managers get fat off NHS contracts, the couriers that risk their lives every day to deliver emergency blood and pathology samples are being left to suffer under a regime of pay cuts and neglect,” said TDL courier and IWGB member, Alex Marshall. “We are proud of the work we do, but that doesn’t mean we will allow bully managers to continue to take us for a ride. We deserve respect and decent pay.”

© IWGB Couriers And Logistics Branch Facebook Page

Last year, in an out-of-court settlement, The Doctors Laboratory admitted that some of the couriers were employees, securing them the most protected status and full rights, including sick leave, maternity pay and ability to challenge unfair dismissal. However, the new contracts also included pay cuts and the obligation to buy one’s own equipment. Plus, the TDL tried to hire new couriers under the new terms in an attempt to reduce the union’s influence.

In the meantime, the IGWB is pursuing £1m in holiday back pay for 50 TDL workers. Clearly the demands of both sides of the dispute are very different. And so is the description of the situation.

© IWGB Couriers And Logistics Branch Facebook Page

“It’s exceptionally disappointing that a minority of our couriers, already some of the best paid in London … have elected to strike,” Laurence Harvey, TDL’s logistics director, told the Guardian. “While our couriers provide a vital service, their demands for annual take home pay higher than the average junior doctor’s and nearly twice that of a ward sister, cannot be deemed reasonable.”

What do you think about the situation? Who do you side with?