Cleaners, security guards and porters at the Ministry of Justice celebrated victory today after they voted 70% in favour of trade union recognition which give them a guaranteed right to negotiate. The victory comes after the workers’ trade union, United Voices of the World, alleged MoJ contractor OCS had engaged in “a sustained campaign of union-busting” in order to frustrate the ballot process, which led to several complaints investigated by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
Speaking after the result of the ballot was announced, one of the cleaners, Fatima Djalo, said the following:
We have won, we have won, we have won. We beat them. We beat their union busting and won our rights. I’m delirious with happiness with this result. Now let’s go for full victory!”
The workers’ union has alleged OCS offered workplace leaders inclined to vote in favour of recognition pay rises on condition they transfer to other sites, as well as blocking other key union members from attending meetings for the purposes of discussing recognition. The union claims the contractor also refused to provide employees with facemasks which prevented meetings between the workers and the union from taking place – something which saw UVW lodge a formal complaint with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
UVW has vowed to continue fighting until the Ministry of Justice ends outsourcing and hires the workers directly on equal terms and conditions with civil servants. To that end, the union claims it will also bring a case to Employment Tribunal arguing that outsourcing the entirely BAME and migrant workforce on inferior terms and condition to civil servants is a breach of the Equality Act 2010.
The victory has come just 3 weeks after the workers won full pay sick pay for Covid-19 related absences and some two months after the death of their colleague, cleaner and UVW member, Emanuel Gomes. Mr Gomes’ death was mired in controversy with reports the MoJ ignored repeated warnings of potential Covid-19 infections and had put workers’ lives at risk through its refusal to provide full pay sick pay or face masks. Something which saw Shadow Secretary of State for Justice David Lammy MP call for an official investigation.
Molly de Dios Fisher, an organiser at UVW said:
“We were always confident the workers would vote in favour of union recognition. They have had enough of the appalling treatment they have suffered – not just under the pandemic, but throughout their time at the MoJ. We are proud of the determination they have shown in the face of a sustained campaign of union busting by OCS. And while we welcome this victory neither the workers nor UVW will stop until they are brought in-house; and we will pursue all legal and industrial options to make that a reality. Including a Judicial Review into the reckless decision by the MoJ to deny them facemasks and strategic litigation at the Employment Tribunal against the racist practice of outsourcing in the department”.
The union has pledged to bring a Judicial Review against the Health and Safety Executive and the Ministry of Justice’s failure to mandate the use of face masks, which the union claims encourages employers to breach health and safety legislation.
Photo: UVW’s Twitter.