A group of Lewisham residents, unions and councillors have condemned the "extreme negligence and callousness" shown by an outsourcing firm which has repeatedly failed to pay cleaning staff at the coronavirus-hit Lewisham Hospital.

Dozens of cleaning, portering and catering staff working on the frontline of the Covid-19 outbreak in Lewisham walked out on March 12 after ISS, Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust's private contractor for 'soft services', failed to pay them.

The workers returned to University Hospital Lewisham the following day, but GMB said that efforts to fix the missing pay has been slow, with some employees still not paid nearly two weeks after.

ISS issued a statement apologising for the mistake, which occurred due to an administrative error, but said the issue had not affected the service its provides at the hospital.

Now, a group of over a 100 residents, union members, university staff and councillors have penned a letter to the director of Lewisham hospital and to ISS, "committing our collective solidarity to the cleaners, caterers and porters" at the hospital.

The letter criticises ISS, a multinational company, for withholding wages from its employees, "leaving many of the hospital's lowest paid workers essentially destitute."

"Amidst a complex, dangerous and developing pandemic, these workers were forced to risk everything simply to have their wages returned in full."

The letter, which says the contractor has a local "pariah status", points out that the non-payment is not an isolated case.

A similar episode played out at Queen Elizabeth Hospital last year, forcing workers to confront ISS after "another botch that resulted in severe payment delays."

Many of those who signed the letter also work at another of Lewisham's main employers, Goldsmiths University, who were forced to end its contract with ISS in 2018.

The group say an apology is not enough, and are now demanding that ISS provides financial compensation for all workers affected by the "extreme negligence" that led to the walk-out.

They also want ISS to revise its sickpay to cover all outsourced staff in the event of a suspected case of Covid-19, and that all ISS brnahces provide a transparent account of health and safety measures in place.

Among those behind the letter is the president and vice president of Goldsmiths UCU, Lewisham NEU, the London Renter's Union, Lewisham West & Penge Labour Party, five Lewisham councillors and over a 100 residents.

ISS took on a seven-year contract with the hospital in February, taking over 400 workers from Interserve.

Responding to media coverage of the strikes, Chris Ash, managing director of healthcare at ISS previously apologised to staff affected, and said they had taken "urgent steps" to resolve the issue.

He explained that the error had affected a "limited number of staff who moved to a new pay system," and that immediate emergency payments had been made.

But GMB organiser Helen O'Connor said the contractor was leaving the "dangers of outsourcing in the NHS bare for all to see."

The union, and the supporters of the letter, are recommending that Lewisham Council distances itself completely from ISS because of its reputation for a "complete disregard for employment standards."