topshopThe UVW union (United Voices of the World} have this week announced that a case which its Petros Elia, a member of the union’s Executive Committee, has described as  the “most significant tribunal case in UVW’s history” has concluded.

The employment tribunal heard evidence, after a ten day hearing, that Susana was dismissed because of trade union activities in helping to organise for UVW and campaign for  London Living Wage. Carolina was also found to have been dismissed for union activities but, interestingly, the employer did not even pretend to deny his having conceded liability on the first day of the hearing (I wonder if the union will be seeking costs from the employer?)

The employer, Britannia Services Group, provided cleaning services for Topshop and one of the cleaners had been cleaning the flagship store for seven years when she was dismissed. Her offence? Taking part in a union demonstration calling for Topshop to ensure all those working for them, directly and indirectly, be paid the London Living Wage and carrying a placard which read “Topshop shame on you.”. Evidence showed that her dismissal was made under pressure  from Topshop management. Topshop’s actions followed national coverage of the dispute and the Topshop’s withdrawal of a policy document that they supported a living wage after the ill-treatment of outsourced workers was highlighted.

Judging from UVW’S published information it is not clear that there has been a remedy hearing and the outcome has not been finalised. In fact, is although the Respondent is said to have admitted the reason for the dismissal was to inhibit trade union organising and for trade union reasons it is not clear that there has yet been a formal decision on liability. In terms of remedy, the best that can be hoped for is a reinstatement order or aggravated damages, personally I don’t think that is not adequate enough and where there is wilful action to impede the exercise by staff of their human right to organise (as seems to be the case here by both Topshop and Britannia Services Group, there should be a penal element to any judgements.

Nonetheless, this is a brilliant outcome by UVW, a small union who have consistently punched well above their weight for a number of years now.  Hopefully, if nothing else, when the judgements are published (assuming they are) this will be picked up by the media and a light will be shone on the corrupt practices of those managers who were content to allow workers to continue to suffer under intolerable pay systems but dismissed them when they sought to unionise and better their lot.