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11.10.2022 / Press releases /

Union-busting pizza chain ordered to put waiter back on payroll, judge rules

  • A judge has ordered London’s Pizza Pilgrims (PP) restaurant chain to put a waiter and United Voices of the World (UVW) member back on the payroll and pay his wages in full until his final hearing on unfair dismissal and trade union victimisation.
  • In granting Interim Relief (IR), the judge stated that there was “high certainty” that waiter Ben Gray could prove in a final hearing that he had been unfairly sacked for his trade union activities. There was a “high degree of animosity towards union activity” from the employer, the judge commented.
  • Gray claims he was sacked for trade union activities following a year-long organising drive at the pizza chain. 
  • This is UVW’s sixth successful IR claim in an Employment Tribunal in the past month, in its ongoing fight against vicious union-busting by employers.  

On 10 October an Employment tribunal granted a United Voices of the World (UVW) member and former Pizza Pilgrims (PP) waiter Interim Relief (IR) pending a final hearing on his abrupt dismissal, resulting in an order to put him back on the payroll, backdate his wages and pay them in full until a final hearing.

Over the course of a year PP waiter Ben Gray organised his colleagues into UVW, hoping to secure a recognition deal between the union and the restaurant. UVW claims his abrupt dismissal was carried out without due process and on flimsy and fabricated grounds.

At the London South Employment Tribunal, a judge heard an audio of an all staff emergency meeting called as a response to workers’ organising moves, where one of PP’s founders Thom Elliot disparaged Gray’s union activities and denigrated the role of unions. 

From the evidence put forward, the judge said there was a “high degree of animosity towards union activity” from the employer and that Gray was seen as a “ring leader” with a lot of hostility directed to him personally. The judge also noted Gray was  “made responsible for union activities… beyond his own actions”. The judge commented that, contrary to PP’s claims, the manner in which Gray undertook his trade union activities, was not “unreasonable, extraneous or malicious”. 

The judge quoted extensively from Elliot’s anti-union comments when delivering the judgement, such as: “What a union is going to do here is slow everything down to a crawl…We are not the company that wants to be slowed down”; “I don’t want something that divides our teams by site and within sites, and adds a layer of bureaucracy and nonsense between getting shit (sic) done and being the best company we can… is what I feel the union will do.;” They’re lying about us”;  “…he (Gray) lied to you to get there… and (they are) pressuring people to the point of sending people out in tears. To getting (sic) them to ask to leave the company because they can’t handle the pressure anymore… That level of pressure and bullying is going on” ; 

“…people are being lied to and being convinced to join when either (sic) they don’t understand…”; “We are not the bad guys… But they’re using you. To make us look like the bad guy.”; “What I don’t want is middle men who potentially don’t understand the situation and the bigger picture getting between us.”; “We’re no longer together. We’re us and them.”

The judge concluded her impression was that it was likely Gray was dismissed because of his union activities rather than the alleged manner in which he went on about them and as such granted him IR. She also stated that there was “high certainty” that Gray could prove in a final hearing that he had been unfairly sacked for his trade union activities.

UVW is proud to have won IR for several members in the past in its continuous fight against vicious union busting. This includes strike leader Jake Marvin from the Saint James Tavern pub in Brighton, who won back pay and wages at the end of September, as well as recycling plant workers and warehouse workers in recent times. 

Ben Gray, UVW) organiser and waiter, said:

“I am very happy that the Employment Tribunal has ruled in my favour in regards to granting me Interim Relief. This win in the pre-trial hearing is a good indication that my dismissal by Pizza Pilgrims will be found to be unfair when we go to trial in the future. This process raises important questions as to the actual reason for my dismissal from Pizza Pilgrims, and whether it was in fact due to my trade union activities.“

Petros Elia, general secretary for UVW , said:

“There is nothing more important to UVW than protecting our members’ right to organise for dignity, respect and power at work. This is a human right and we will never let employers take that right away from our members, particularly viscerally anti-union employers that so brazenly and unashamedly flout it like Pizza Pilgrims. And so we are standing by Ben’s side and fighting this in the courts and on the picket line if we need to.”

For further information contact the UVW comms team.

Jim: 07749 765264
Cristina: 07548 759340 
Isabel: 07706 987443

E-mail: comms@uvwunion.org.uk    

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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