A Greenwich Council-owned business has apologised after telling its employees via text message that they wouldn’t be paid due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Gateway, an employment agency which is part of the council-owned and managed company GS Plus, sent a text message to its employees last week stating there would be no work because of the coronavirus lockdown.
The Abbey Wood-based agency supplies hundreds of workers within and beyond the borough working across a variety of sectors including catering and cleaning.
According to the Unite union, about 100 agency workers on zero-hour contracts – including transport staff who take children of key workers to school – were informed by text they wouldn’t be paid.
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Unite’s regional officer, Onay Kasab, said Gateway had “behaved appallingly to their workforces at a time of national emergency when we should all be pulling together”.
“What is even worse, they did not even wait to see how they could have benefited from the employment packages that chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced to keep people in jobs, whether they are full-time or self-employed,” Kasab said.
The union said those affected included employees who had worked regular hours for a number of years, and demanded their immediate reinstatement.
Greenwich Council declined to comment and pointed towards a statement produced by the head of Gateway, Kim Watson, in which she conceded the organisation “should have been more sensitive” in its actions.
“We recognise that this is a difficult time for many and we acknowledge that our communication to staff on this occasion should have been more sensitive,” she said.
“We have since apologised to our agency staff who received the text message and sent a letter explaining that they will be paid the normal arrangements.”
She added Gateway was now considering how the government’s business support package could be used to help employees there.
“A huge thank you to our staff for the highly valued work they undertake on behalf of Gateway. I’d like to reassure all of our agency staff we will be keeping them up to date of any developments – we are currently in discussions with our clients and are exploring the government financial initiative with the view to ensure we support agency staff,” she said.
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Lachlan Leeming is the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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