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13.05.2022 / Press releases /

Care home strike leader wins trade union victimisation claim

  • A strike leader at the Sage Nursing Home (Sage) in north London has won a claim for trade union victimisation at an Employment Tribunal this week
  • Bella Ruiz is a care worker and United Voices of the World (UVW) member who helped organise a successful strike for better pay and working conditions
  • The judgement is a reminder to all that organising a workplace is a worker’s protected right and UVW calls on the Trustees to issue a full apology to Bella.

A care worker who organised a successful strike at Sage Nursing Home in north London has won a claim for trade union victimisation at an Employment Tribunal. Between the 9 and 12 May, the Watford Employment Tribunal heard Bella Ruiz’s account of how she felt victimised for challenging her bosses on poverty pay, lack of protective gear (PPE) and appalling working conditions at the height of the pandemic, and how she then felt that she was subjected to a union-busting witch-hunt for mobilising her colleagues. From the moment she raised her voice, she felt that she was confronted by a culture of intimidation.

Bella helped to unionise over 30 workers in her workplace, she led a petition for trade union recognition, hosted numerous union meetings and represented her colleagues at speaking events. After they balloted for strike action, under the campaign slogan “Quality care, deserves quality pay”, 75,000 people signed an e-petition; messages of solidarity flooded in from all over the world, the campaign yielded early-day motions in Parliament and won wide coverage in national media. By the end of 2021 care workers, domestic and maintenance staff at Sage won a huge victory and pay rise after a protracted dispute and strike.

But Bella couldn’t enjoy this massive win. By 2020, she had brought a case against her employer for victimising her and breaching her rights. She went on to file a complaint against a colleague for harassment. She recalls how her working environment went from bad to worse. She says bosses at Sage intimidated her colleagues and turned them against her. She remembers with pain being called ‘subversive’ and ‘malicious’, which had a huge impact on her mental health. Eventually, the pressure was so great she had no choice but to resign.

Bella Ruiz, former care worker, strike organiser and UVW member, said:

“I am extremely happy that I took Sage Nursing Home to the Employment Tribunal. I have come to the conclusion that I want to thank them because in the end due to the abuse they committed against me I was able to discover how powerful and strong I am to assert my rights and my dignity. And I will always raise my voice to defend the rights of workers who are in miserable conditions and in court it was clear that it is not a malicious act to join a union and be an activist, so no more fear! Thank you UVW for your full support

“To my fellow SAGE members, I congratulate you on your decision to join UVW, feel protected and never hesitate to raise your voice.

“I felt like I was making a movie, taking my bosses to court. It was an exhausting process but my fight was from love and not hate. I can sleep with a clear conscience with the satisfaction of my duty fulfilled and long live the union!”

Simon Bennett, legal caseworker for UVW, said:

“This outcome represents a vindication for Bella and a reminder to all that organising a workplace is a legally protected activity which managers are not entitled to object to or interfere with. All of UVW’s members should take heart.”

Petros Elia, general secretary for UVW, said:

“We will never hesitate to sue a boss that comes after one of us. What Bella suffered at Sage Nursing home was nothing short of disgraceful. The trustees have finally been held to account for overseeing and allowing such grotesque union busting to take place on their watch of key workers who were merely exercising basic fundamental human rights to strike for a living wage. We now call on the Trustees to issue a full apology to Bella, a migrant worker from Colombia who dared to stand up, speak up and fight back.”

For more quotes from Bella, please see this recent article about her case:

The triumph of dignity: Care worker and uvw strike leader gets her day in court

For more information on Bella’s story, please see this article:

Action conquers fear! – UVW

For further information contact the UVW communications team.

E-mail: comms@uvwunion.org.uk
Jim: 07749 765264
Cristina: 07984 462405
Isabel: 07706987443

Notes for editors:

UVW 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 Black, brown 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.

For more information on UVW’s organising at Sage, please see SAGE – UVW.

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