A Black migrant cleaner from Colombia, who was sacked from his job cleaning the Daily Mail offices over three years ago, has won £38,000 in compensation from his employer.
Javier Sánchez Ortiz took his bosses from Mitie, the cleaning contractor employed by the Daily Mail, to the Tribunal after he was repeatedly punished and then sacked for being an active trade union member.
Javier Sánchez Ortiz had worked for eight and a half years for Mitie cleaning the offices of the Daily Mail. While he was there, he had played a key role in a union-led campaign which won a 25% pay rise for cleaners at the Daily Mail back in 2018. A strike was averted when Mitie agreed to raise their pay from just over seven pounds an hour to £10.25.
The Tribunal heard how Mitie had victimised Javier for his role in organizing the workers to join United Voices of the World and fight for better terms and conditions. At one point, one of Javier’s line managers had intimidated the cleaners asking them for a list of union members.
Six months after the pay rise was won, Javier suffered an accident at work 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.
Mitie bosses initiated disciplinary proceedings against him, arguing he had faked the fall and that this was an insurmountable breach of trust. Several disciplinary hearings were postponed by both parties and within a month Mitie dismissed Javier in absentia disregarding the worker’s right to attend meetings in the company of a union representative.
The judge ruled Mitie’s argument that Javier had faked the fall could not have justified his dismissal and that his union activities served as a better explanation for it.
The ruling reaffirms the right of unionised workers to attend disciplinary meetings accompanied by their union representatives, and to postpone them if necessary, without fear of reprisal.
Javier is a father of three who left Colombia for the UK via Spain to be able to support his family and put his kids through university. He’s lived in London for 12 years and been a member of UVW for four. After he was sacked, Javier suffered from anxiety and depression for months.
Javier Sanchez Ortiz, former Daily Mail cleaner and UVW member. said:
“They insisted I was lying about my accident and treated me like I was a criminal. I had worked without fault for over eight years, never sick, never late, and I felt unfairly judged, mistreated and humiliated. But I didn’t let them intimidate me and with the help and support from my union, UVW, I took them to court. Thanks to God we won everything. I am so happy. I feel justice has finally been done. I invite every other cleaner out there to join UVW and fight for their rights, for a decent pay and dignified treatment, I also hope my victory will encourage others to not fear the threat of dismissal because justice will be done.”
Finnian Clarke, Javier’s UVW legal representative, said:
“This case highlights that trade union detriment and automatic unfair dismissal cases are winnable even without direct evidence of an employer’s anti-union prejudice. It also reaffirms the strong right that workers and union representatives have to postpone hearings under s.10 Employment Relations Act 1999. That Javier was dismissed as long ago as December 2018 and that it has taken this long to get to a final hearing is testament both to the chronic under-resourcing of our Tribunal system and to Javier’s unbelievable resilience. We’re so happy that Javier finally has got the justice he deserved.”
Petros, Elias, general secretary for UVW, said:
“Fighting this case for three years and winning on every count should serve as a stark warning to union-busting bosses out there that if they come after one of UVW’s members we will fight back with all we’ve got and for as long as it takes until justice is served. Javier is an inspirational trade unionist and the £38,000 he’s won is one of the highest tribunal payouts to a cleaner ever, which he deserves every penny of.”
For further information contact the UVW comms team.
Notes for editors
United Voices of the World is an anti-racist, member-led, direct action, campaigning trade union and we exist to support and empower the most vulnerable groups of precarious, low-paid and predominantly BAME and migrant workers in the UK. We fight the bosses through direct action on the streets and through the courts and demand that all members receive at least the London Living Wage, full pay, sick pay, dignity, equality and respect.
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