Aldermarston electricians go it alone with Covid insurance coverage fund
Workers are employed by electrical subcontractor NG Bailey at the Atomic Weapons Establishment’s new MENSA Trident warheads factory in Aldermarston, Berkshire.
If workers have to self-isolate due to contact with someone with Covid-19, they are only entitled to statutory sickness benefit of £ 95 per week.
In theory, workers are also entitled to industry sickness benefits under the Joint Industry Board (JIB) agreement. However, this is not paid for for the first two weeks of the illness, which means the isolation period will expire before the money is due.
The workers initially asked their employer for an additional payment to help self-isolation, but this was denied.
In response, the workers, members of the Unite union, set up their own collection system. Participants pay £ 10 per week and if a worker needs to self-isolate or develop Covid-19 they will receive £ 205 per week which, when added to the £ 95 statutory sick pay, means they will receive a total of £ 300 per week.
There are between 100 and 120 workers in the program, and around 10 workers are involved in raising the money. Most weeks the program raises around £ 1,100. The workers have also introduced an electronic card payment system to make collecting easier.
A total of 16 workers needed support from the program; 15 had to self-isolate and one developed Covid-19.
Last week the program paid out £ 900 to self-isolating workers and a total of £ 6,785 has been paid out since the program began in November.
Ian Woodland, National Officer for Construction, said, “Our members deserve nothing but praise for establishing this program of supporting and protecting one another.
“The excellent work our members do on the Aldermarston site reveals contractors and the government’s dirty secret: employers and government have failed to ensure that workers can afford not to go to work when they need to isolate themselves or Showing symptoms to avoid spreading the virus.
“Workers have a choice of doing the right thing or paying the bills. Nobody can survive on 95 pounds a week.
“This has inevitably led to the spread of Covid-19 and ultimately increased the number of deaths from the virus.
“While this is a heartwarming story of workers taking collective action, it should shame construction companies and the government to act and ensure that all workers are better protected.”