A group of electricians, members of the building union, Unite, have launched a fund to ensure that if any of them contract with Covid-19 or have to self-isolate, they will not be left financially destitute. The workers are hired by electrical subcontractor NG Bailey and work in the new MENSA building at the Atomic Weapons Corporation in Aldermarston, Berkshire. If workers are required to self-isolate due to contact with someone with Covid-19, they are only entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP), which is only £ 95 per week. Workers are also theoretically entitled to industry satisfactory under the Joint Industry Board (JIB) agreement. However, this amount is not paid for the first two weeks of illness, meaning that by the time it is payable, the isolation period is over and the worker is back to work. The workers initially contacted their employer to obtain an agreement that they could pay an additional amount to allow them to self-isolate, but this was denied. In response the workers agreed to create their own collection system. Workers collect £ 10 a week from program participants, and if a worker is asked to self-isolate or develop Covid-19, they are paid £ 205, which in addition to £ 95 (SSP) means they receive a total of £ 300 a week. 100-120 workers participate in the program and there are 8-10 workers involved in collecting workers’ money. Most weeks, the scheme collects around £ 1,100. Workers have also introduced an electronic card payment system to facilitate the collection process. In total, 16 workers needed support from the program, and 15 were required to self-isolate and develop Covid-19. Last week, the scheme paid out £ 900 to self-isolating workers and a total of £ 6,785 has been paid since the scheme began in November. Unite highlighted this story to coincide with Heart Unions Week, an annual opportunity to remind workers and the general public of the importance of unions in society. “Our members deserve nothing but credit for creating this scheme, as they support each other and protect one another,” said Ian Woodland, National Entrepreneur Consolidation Officer. “The excellent work our members have done at Aldermarston exposes construction employers and the government’s dirty secret: Employers and the government have failed to ensure that workers who are required to self-isolate or who are showing symptoms can afford not to go to work to avoid the spread of the virus. “Workers are left with a stark choice between doing the right thing or paying the bills. No one can survive on £ 95 a week. This has inevitably led to the further spread of Covid-19 and ultimately the virus deaths.” The heart-warming story of workers doing group work, but it should shame the building and government employers to act and ensure better protection for all workers. ”At the start of the pandemic, Unite contacted all employers regarding industrial construction agreements demanding the suspension of the qualification period for sick wages in the industry in Covid cases to ensure workers are isolated from themselves.This was rejected and Unite was informed that industrial sick pay was an “economic consideration” and such matters could only be considered during wage negotiations.