Staff at a North London care home have begun a series of legal proceedings against their employer it can be revealed today. According to trade union United Voices of the World (UVW), 14 care workers, cleaners and maintenance workers at Sage Nursing Home in Golders Green North London, a privately run care home for elderly and vulnerable Jewish residents, are bringing two separate legal claims against their employer for trade union victimisation.
The care home is currently at the centre of an industrial dispute and recently saw dozens of its staff walk out in two separate strikes lasting for 4 and 3 days in January and February of this year. It is understood workers are demanding a £12 per hour “living wage”, full pay sick pay and annual leave in line with NHS rates, trade union recognition and an end to what they have called “victimisation” and “discrimination” at the home.
UVW officials state the first claim is a group claim concerning a letter sent by the home’s trustees during a ballot for industrial action in October 2020. The claim will be heard at an Employment Tribunal whilst a second individual claim for victimisation is also being brought by a former employee of the home.
Bella Ruiz, a former care assistant who worked at Sage for just over two years, said the following: “I felt attacked by management. I filed a complaint about harassment from a nurse, but instead of dealing with my complaint they hired an investigator who interviewed my colleagues to ask them about my behaviour, and if they were members of the union, and if I had forced them into joining the union. What affected me the most was when they said I was ‘subversive’ and should use other means to resolve my concerns”.
She went on to say, “They started sending me letters, calling me into meetings and saying I was putting the lives of the residents at risk. The environment was hostile. I started to suffer from severe headaches, hair loss, anxiety and cried a lot, I was on medical leave several times. I couldn’t cope with the pressure so I decided to resign. But I feel empowered taking this legal action, and I am proud that I have not remained silent and have raised my voice for dignity. We all deserve to have healthy work spaces and bosses who respect the rights of their employees”.
Richard O’keeffe, UVW Head of Legal Services, said the following:
‘This case highlights a gap in protection of trade union rights in UK employment law. Being threatened with dismissal for pursuing lawful strike action is a breach of workers’ right to free association and union membership and activity under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. We are hopeful the Tribunal will fill this gap in the domestic legislation in line with the UK’s international law obligations and compensate our members for this victimisation.’
Speaking about the group claim, Molly de Dios Fisher, a UVW Organiser, said the following:
“After trying and failing to negotiate with their employer for 7 months, the workers began to vote for strike action. This prompted Sage’s trustees to send them a letter where our members were told to vote against strike action. It was also suggested a vote in favour could lead to job losses, risk to their employment, and more absurdly, “intimidation from the union”, this is a clear case of trade union victimisation”.
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