Electricians launch fund to guard towards self-isolating

A group of electricians set up a fund to protect themselves from the financial hardship they could face if they are forced to self-isolate due to Covid-19

The electricians are employed by electrical subcontractor NG Bailey and work on the new MENSA building for the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston, Berkshire.

If workers are forced to self-isolate due to contact with someone with Covid-19, they are only entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), which is only worth £ 95 a week.

The electricians are also theoretically entitled to industrial illnesses under the Joint Industry Board (JIB) agreement. However, this is not paid for the first two weeks of the illness, which means that at the time of payment, the isolation period has expired and the employee has returned to work.

Workers first turned to their employer to come to an agreement that an additional payment could be made so they could afford to self-isolate. However, this was refused.

In response, the electricians agreed to set up their own collection system. Workers receive £ 10 per week from participants in the program. If a worker has to self-isolate or develop Covid-19 they will receive £ 205 which, when taken with the SSP of £ 95, means they will receive a total of £ 300 per year week.

Scheme success

100 to 120 workers participate in the program, and 8 to 10 workers are involved in raising the workers’ 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.

“Employers and government failed”

Ian Woodland, National Design Officer, said, “Our members deserve nothing but praise for establishing this program of helping and protecting one another.

“The excellent work done by our members on the Aldermaston site reveals contractors and the government’s dirty secret: employers and government have failed to ensure workers who self-isolate or show symptoms can afford not to go to work to avoid the spread of 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.”

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