NHS hospital cleaning firm bosses held for 'blackmailing illegal staff'
Three managers at a NHS cleaning company have been arrested on suspicion of blackmailing foreign staff, amid claims that illegal immigrants have been employed at hospitals across the country.
By Matthew Moore
Published: 8:00AM GMT 20 Nov 2009
The offices of ISS Mediclean were yesterday raided by police investigating reports that some of its managers at Kingston Hospital in south west London had threatened to report illegally employed colleagues to immigration authorities.
Channel 4 News claimed that some ISS bosses at Kingston are also being investigated for allegedly employing hundreds of illegal cleaning and catering staff at the hospital, and pocketing the wages of former workers after they left.
When there was a rumour that immigration was coming, half the domestic force would not be available,” a whistle-blower told the programme.
“They just wouldnt turn up or they were tipped off not to show up to work. They would simply disappear and they ran on a skeleton staff.
ISS employs more than 43,000 people at dozens of NHS and private hospitals around Britain. At least two other hospitals where the firm has contracts are also being investigated.
Companies employing illegal immigrants in this country face fines of up to 5,000 per worker.
It is understood the allegations emerged following a tip off from a local community group in Kingston.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said two men, aged 47 and 43, and a 28-year-old woman were being questioned last night
He said: “Kingston Police conducted a pre-planned operation to arrest three individuals for alleged blackmail offences.”
A spokesman for Kingston Hospital said: “This is not the only hospital ISS is contracted to clean and provide other services for and it is not the only one to have become the focus of this inquiry.
“What has been uncovered here has led the UK Border Agency to at least two other hospitals where ISS has similar contracts.
An ISS spokesman said the company is “co-operating fully” with the inquiries that are under way.
He added: “ISS deeply regrets any adverse reaction that this incident may have had on the patients, staff and visitors to the hospital.
“However, it is our responsibility to work within the law and to ensure that our employees do the same, which includes demonstrating their right to work legally.
“Immediate steps have been taken to ensure that the correct levels of management and staff remain in place.”