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Covid-19 sample couriers to strike following victimisation by NHS contractor TDL

MEDICAL couriers will start strike action today after facing victimisation by NHS contractor The Doctors Laboratory (TDL).

The couriers, who have been transporting Covid-19 samples for the multimillion-pound contractor, are taking action over the redundancies being made during the pandemic and TDL’s refusal to address workers’ health and safety concerns. 

Most of the 10 workers being targeted for redundancy have been active in demanding better and safer working conditions. 

A virtual picket line will be held at 10am via Zoom, with speakers including Labour MPs John McDonnell and Kate Osamor. 

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which has filed a trade-union victimisation and whistleblower victimisation claim, said that senior management frequently referred to its members as “troublemakers” and had recruited a “head of logistics” specifically to undermine union activity at TDL. 

Union members have also reported harassment by managers in relation to the strike, which will be the first action by key workers since the pandemic began. 

TDL has refused to meet repeated health and safety demands, according to the workers, including providing adequate protective wear, implementing social-distancing measures and regular Covid-19 testing for couriers who enter wards to collect coronavirus samples. 

IWGB has warned that the approach by the company could pose grave risks to couriers — and the public at large.

Workers have said they are concerned about their capacity to become “super spreaders” of the virus as their job involves travel and contact with large numbers of people, many of whom are high-risk, in hospital or shielding at home. 

TDL courier and IWGB branch chairman Alex Marshall said: “We won holiday pay, pensions and pay rises, so management have always had us in their sights.

“Blowing the whistle on practices that put lives at risk from Covid-19 was the final straw for them. TDL has used this crisis as a smokescreen to target and make an example of us, but I wouldn’t change a thing. 

“It’s us who need to make an example of companies like TDL, to show trade-union victimisation won’t be tolerated — nor will gambling with people’s lives.” 

A spokesperson for TDL told the Star: “Redundancies are not a decision we ever make lightly.

"A number of IWGB’s TDL courier members are striking as a result of a consultation launched in early May with our pushbike and walking couriers, whose work in inner London has fallen by almost three quarters since the start of the pandemic, and who cannot be deployed with the same flexibility as our motorised couriers.

"The IWGB is making inaccurate claims against TDL including that the redundancies are due to trade union or whistleblowing activities. When the consultation launched TDL did not know which couriers were IWGB union members with the exception of its three allocated lay representatives, only one of whose roles was being consulted on.

"We are particularly concerned that the IWGB is making unfounded claims relating to our courier workforce’s health and safety. It is inconceivable that TDL would deliberately expose any of our workforce, of whom our courier fleet is an important part, to undue risk at any time but especially now.

"All TDL’s health and safety protocols, which includes access to Covid-19 testing for those with symptoms, are compliant with current regulations and UK government and Public Health England’s guidelines. They are kept under constant review by TDL’s Director of Health and Safety. When they change, TDL’s protocols change with them.”

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