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08.01.2021 / News /

UVW’s 2020 Round up

2020 was a big year for UVW. In the face of a deadly pandemic threatening the lives and livelihoods of our members, families and communities, UVW’s membership doubled and our staff numbers tripled.

Our membership in 2020 displayed over and over again how the power of worker-led collective direct action can move mountains, pandemic or not.

Our campaigns! In 2020 we forced:

  • 2 NHS Trusts to end outsourcing (St. Mary’s Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital)
  • Greenwich University to pay outsourced cafe workers, cleaners and security guards the London Living Wage (£10.85 per hour) and the same occupational sick pay and holiday entitlement as directly employed staff
  • Ark Academy (part of the Academy chain Ark) to provide the cleaners with parity of sick pay with teachers and pay the London Living Wage (£10.85), up from the minimum wage (£8.72)
  • The Adelphi building, owned by billionaire Amancio Ortega, to pay their cleaners the London Living wage 
  • La Retraite Catholic Girls’ School to pay their cleaners the London Living Wage

We also:

  • Organised 14 days of strike action of security guards at St George’s University of London and occupied the university 
  • Had three groups of UVW members walk off the job in Wildcat strikes over unpaid wages and H&S concerns, respectively 
  • Returned a successful strike ballot of care workers at Sage Nursing Home who are due to strike in January 2021
  • Launched several recognition campaigns at 3 major VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls) charities, a Scottish art gallery, a care home and multiple law firms
  • Won recognition through the CAC in the Ministry of Justice
  • Launched campaigns for victimised UVW members, Percy and Cetin
  • Raised £25,000 for the family of UVW member and Ministry of Justice cleaner Emanuel so they could repatriate his body to Guinea Bissau and tie themselves over following his untimely passing at the Ministry shortly following outbreaks of coronavirus
  • Distributed 2,000 face masks to our members and other frontline workers  
  • Joined the Women’s Strike March 2020

Legal action! In 2020 we:

  • Have handled over 1,500 cases and inquiries from members since lockdown in March 2020
  • Won £100,000s in compensation for our members and started proceedings that once won or settled next year will see £100,000s more in compensation in the pockets of our members
  • Began legal proceedings against the police following the unlawful arrest of UVW committee member Franck Magennis at the St. George’s University of London picket line
  • Successfully fended off threats of defamation proceedings 
  • Won the first ever worker status claim for strippers who are normally falsely classified as self employed independent contractors and therefore denied the right to paid annual leave and the right not to be discriminated against
  • Similar to the above case, we have also brought legal proceedings against a major VAWG charity arguing that their counsellors are actually limb b workers, not self employed independent contractors
  • Brought groundbreaking legal proceedings against the Royal Parks, St George’s University and the Ministry of Justice arguing for the first in court  that outsourcing BAME workers on inferior pay rates and T&Cs to in-house workers is an act of indirect race discrimination 
  • Won interim relief in the employment tribunal for UVW member Alejandro who was sacked from his job in a fruit factory after raising H&S concerns. This was the first Coronavirus related judgement in the employment tribunal. 
  • Took a major contractor to the High Court, arguing new grounds of law that an injunction should be granted to prevent the trade union victimisation of a security guard on the grounds that compensation available in the employment tribunal doesn’t adequately mitigate the financial precarity low-paid workers will be forced to endure if sacked.

Political Education! In 2020 we:

  • Ran workshops on employment law and all things Furlough, as well as on taxes, the benefit system, immigration and residency issues
  • Ran trade union representative and organiser trainings, as well as training related to identifying and dealing with sexual harassment 
  • Started weekly Know Your Rights sessions in English and Spanish 
  • Launched Spanish classes for all UVW members
  • Continued to run and grow our English classes
  • Ran a mini-series, called “UNION TALKS” on trade union history 
  • Linked up with grassroots community groups such as Association of Latino parents in the UK and Common Knowledge 

Union democracy! In 2020 we:

  • Carried out a membership wide consultation in order to democratically determine UVW’s priorities and future direction 
  • Expanded membership of our executive committee to ensure it continues to reflect our diverse membership and is comprised of the highest degree of rank and file representation as possible 

UVW in the Media! In 2020 we:

  • Appeared in video reports on Channel 4, RT TV, and the Guardian
  • Starred in a documentary film about UVW and our campaign at St Mary’s hospital released by the Guardian 
  • Appeared in the Guardian, Huckmag, Tribune, Freedom News, BBC, Left Foot Forward, Camden New Journal, New Socialist, Vice, Novara, Legal Futures, Legal Cheek, The Canary, The Independent, Business-Human rights, Vashti media, SWLondoner, Daily Mail, My London, Wired, and several other smaller platforms too. 
  • Contributed to True Currency: About Feminist Economics Podcast: Flor Andrade Valencia & Jaquelin Saldaña, feature in Episode 2: Worker Struggles, Part 1 – When Migrant Women Rise, We All Rise.

Keeping UVW going! In 2020 we secured:

  • Emergency Coronavirus funding to distribute essential goods to our members
  • Further funding from the Trust for London to help fund our legal department
  • Funding to run organiser training programmes from the Lipman-Miliband Trust


  • UVW’s work was displayed in the British Library exhibition “Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women’s Rights”, running from 23 October 2020 to 21 February 2021

What a year. We’re ready for 2021 – let the fightback continue!


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