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15.02.2022 / News /

Colombian cleaner unfairly sacked wins £38,000 in compensation

“They insisted that I was lying about my accident at work and treated me as if I was a criminal. I had worked without fail for more than eight years, never late or sick, and I felt unfairly judged, mistreated and humiliated. But I did not let them intimidate me and with the support and help of my UVW union I took them to court. Thank God we won the case. I am so happy. I feel that justice has been done. I invite all cleaners to join UVW and fight for their rights, for a decent wage and decent treatment. I also hope that my victory will encourage others not to fear retaliation and dismissal because in the end justice will prevail.”

Javier Sánchez Ortiz, former Daily Mail cleaner and UVW member.

A Colombian immigrant who was fired from his job because of his union activities by the company Mitie, which provides cleaning services to the Daily Mail newspaper, has been awarded £38,000.

On January 27, after a marathon week-long hearing, an Employment Tribunal in London ruled that the United Voices of the World (UVW) member Javier Sánchez Ortiz should receive financial compensation for being repeatedly punished and then sacked for being an active member of the union that forced the 25% pay rise for Daily Mail cleaners in 2018.

Javier, a Colombian father of three and settled in the UK for 12 years, was discharged in 2018 after suffering an accident at work whose bosses described as a lie and used to justify a dismissal that the court has concluded was unfair.

The court ruled that the reasons presented by Mitie were not sufficient to terminate his contract and that Javier’s membership in UVW union appeared to be the determining factor.

Javier suffered an accident at work in 2018 which left him injured for two weeks, during which he received the minimum statutory sick pay. He had provided his employer with a note from his GP.  His Mitie bosses initiated disciplinary proceedings arguing that he had faked the fall and that this was an insurmountable breach of trust. Within a month and after several unsuccessful attempts at a meeting on both sides, Mitie’s bosses fired him without giving him and his UVW representatives the opportunity to attend the meetings.

A few months before he was sacked, Javier had played a key role in the campaign for a 25% pay rise for all Mitie cleaners at the Daily Mail. On at least one occasion, one of his bosses intimidated workers by asking them for the names of trade unionists with the explicit intention of retaliating against them.

Javier has fought for three years to get justice and during this time has suffered anxiety and depression, as well as struggling to find work, He is relieved and happy about the court ruling and urges others to follow his example and not be intimidated. “They insisted that I was lying about my work accident and treated me as if I was a criminal. I had worked without fail for more than eight years, never late or sick, and I felt unfairly judged, mistreated and humiliated. But I did not let them intimidate me and with the support and help of my union, UVW ,I took them to court. Thank God we won the case in full. I am so happy. I feel that justice has been done. I invite all cleaners to join UVW and fight for their rights, for a decent wage and decent treatment. I also hope that my victory will encourage others not to fear retaliation and dismissal because justice will prevail.”

This ruling reaffirms the right of workers to organize collectively, to attend meetings with their bosses accompanied by their union representatives and to postpone meetings if necessary, and serves as a warning to exploitative employers that if they boycott unions or attempt to mask their anti-union bias, their tactics will be exposed and prosecuted in court.

This case is a perfect reminder of what building power and solidarity in workplaces and communities through collective, legal and direct action can do.

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