His fight for better employment conditions has meant that Oscar Álvarez has lost his job. Today he asks the company to rectify their decision, readmit him and guarantee dignified employment to all of its employees.
Until a few months ago, for more than 8 years, Oscar David Álvarez had been a member of staff at Metroline Travel Limited, one of the companies that manages public transport in the British capital.
On the 28th February he was “unjustly” fired by the company. Álvarez assures that his membership with the Industrial Workers of the World union (IWW) and the economic interests of his superiors, are behind his dimissal.
Metroline Travel Limited claim that his dismissal is due to an infraction committed behind the wheel of his bus. However, Oscar David Álvarez denies this allegation, and has testified, in a letter submitted to his manager, that the infraction was committed in order to avoid a traffic accident.
“They are looking for any small fault, anything that can be used against me, to blow out of proportion. It serves to camouflage their interests. My age and my affiliation with the union mean that I am dangerous for them.”
“My attitude is not well received. We have been sent a new 9-page contract, whereas the previous one consisted of only two pages. I read it and saw that there were clauses that facilitated the dismissal. I refused to sign it and warned my colleagues not to sign it too. My superiors didn’t like this at all”.
He says that he would “return to accept his former post”, but claims that Metroline Travel Limited ought to offer some respectable employment conditions to its employees.
So what really lies behind this unfair dismissal?
The United Kingdom is a money-making machine and here the health of the business and of the employers takes precedence. They have many facilities, amongst them, free dismissal. They try to obtain more benefits in relation to income, and if to achieve this they must fire the older workers who charge more and have more benefits, they won’t doubt doing it for a minute. They substitute them for new employees with inferior salaries, and save a lot of money.
How many people are affected by the changes and the dismissals by Metroline Travel Limited?
All of the workers. The moment that a leader is dismissed (I don’t define myself as such but I had a prevalent voice over the others), people begin to get scared. They remove the tougher employees in favor of less assertive ones. Now there are only pawns left.
Very unfair. In the disciplinary proceedings that they have opened against me I’ve found up to nine errors. I have proven that I am right but they simply disregard my claims. They always say that they will reconsider my allegations, but they then just let time pass. With my defense, they ought to assume the blame and rectify what has happened, but it hasn’t been like that.
To prove the restrictions that I’ve had I’ll tell of how I was once forced to remove a top showing the symbol of my union. They told me that I wasn’t wearing the disciplinary uniform. What they were trying to do was pressure me, that I might become depressed and would leave my union. If you don’t do it, they’ll be after you.
It won’t be harder because I work alone in the bus cabin. But yes, I imagine they will watch me more closely. The businessess can’t touch the union officials, we have complete protection, but they can dismiss us.
What evidence do you have that the law will rule in your favour?
The company has used evidence against me that has been recorded by the bus cameras. By law, I have the right to receive a copy in order to prepare my defense, but the company has not provided me with one. I can win with that alone, because their actions go against legal principles. They think that I’m not going to defend myself, but I am going to take this case right to the end. If the court rules in my favour they have to readmit me and potentially offer me money so that I might abandon my fight and remain in silence.
Of course. I would rather be readmitted, it would be far more beneficial. The problem is that in the UK, businesses have the freedom to fire you at any moment, with or without a reason. However, if you prove in court that your dismissal has been unfair, then you can demand that the company readmit you. Many prefer to give you money so that you don’t continue to work there. This case could turn out to be very expensive for my former company, so we will soon see what it prefers to do.
As a trade unionist, what injustices are committed more frequently in the working environment?
It depends on the environment. The Latin Americans work very much in the cleaning sector, and their main complaint is in relation to their salary. They charge very little for working very long hours. In this sector, minimum wage is offered by law. The problem for Latin American immigrants is that they keep quiet about their problems. Many, through not paying, are not members of the unions and don’t receive the help and the information that they need in order to improve their situation. It’s necessary that they open up and talk about their difficulties immediately, not three months later when it’s harder to organise and defend a case.
They don’t sufffer any worse conditions than other communties, but they are exploited through their contracts. Many sign them without reading them, as it’s the only way that they can work. On accepting the terms, they are subject to unfit conditions.
By accepting, the business is always right. If all the trade unions unite we will have a greater force to be able to demand that employers change their current recruitment requirements.
(Translated by Eleanor Gooch – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)