The workers are employed by electrical subcontractor NG Bailey on the new MENSA Trident warhead factory at the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermarston, Berkshire.
If the workers are required to self-isolate due to coming into contact with someone with Covid-19, they are only entitled to £95 a week statutory sick pay.
The workers are also in theory entitled to industry sick pay under the Joint Industry Board (JIB) agreement. However, this is not paid for the first two weeks of sickness, meaning that the isolation period has ended before the money is payable.
The workers initially asked their employer for an additional payment to support any having to self-isolate but this was rejected.
In response the workers, members of the Unite union, set up their own collection system. Those participating put in £10 a week and if a worker is required to self-isolate or develops Covid-19 they are paid £205 a week, which together with the £95 statutory sick pay means they receive a total of £300 a week.
Between 100 and 120 workers are participating in the scheme and there are roughly 10 workers involved in collecting the money. Most weeks the scheme collects around £1,100. The workers have also introduced an electronic card payment system to make collection easier.
In total 16 workers have required support from the scheme; 15 have been required to self-isolate and one developed Covid-19.
Last week, the scheme paid out £900 to workers self-isolating and a total of £6,785 has been paid out since the scheme began In November.
Unite national officer for construction Ian Woodland said: “Our members deserve nothing but praise for establishing this scheme, where they are supporting and protecting each other.
“The excellent work by our members on the Aldermarston site, 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 displaying symptoms can afford to not go to work to avoid spreading the virus.
“Workers are left with the stark choice of 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 increased fatalities from the virus.
“While this is a heart-warming story of workers taking collective action, it should shame construction employers and the government to act and ensure that all workers are better protected.”