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Finsbury Park mum who was fired unfairly for protesting low Topshop pay now in line for £75,000 compensation

PUBLISHED: 11:12 21 February 2019 | UPDATED: 12:29 21 February 2019

Susana Benavides and Petros Elia celebrate the United Voices of the World unions' victory against Britannia. Picture: UVW union

Susana Benavides and Petros Elia celebrate the United Voices of the World unions' victory against Britannia. Picture: UVW union

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A Finsbury Park mother fired from her subcontracted cleaning job at Topshop for protesting "poverty wages" has proved she was dismissed unfairly at an employment tribunal - and could now get up to £75,000 in compensation.

Susana Benavides, 43, who lives off Seven Sisters Road with her three children, was fired by Britannia Services Group Ltd on the grounds of gross misconduct after she led a United Voices of the World protest calling for a Living Wage for workers outside the flagship Oxford Street store in 2016.

The court heard how her former boss, a Mr Shaw, was “irked and annoyed” by the protest, asking for parity between agency and in-house staff, and that he went as far as saying she should be “dismissed” for the display.

Susana, who is now a full-time UVW organiser, told the Gazette: “I’m extremely excited the judgment was in my favour and it’s great to know that even though I’m an immigrant worker justice was still served.

“Justice is a really hard thing to attain and it is really costly as well for some people but in my case I’m fortunate enough to have a union [who paid her legal fees] – and I feel privileged.”

And, in a message to other workers in Islington, Susana said: “My main aim is to take the veil away from people’s eyes because lots of people are exploited and we have to give them the message that we have to fight for the few rights we have and defend those rights.”

She said she’s regained her “dignity” through the tribunal ruling.

“The next step is to carry on fighting,” she said. “My ultimate dream is to improve working rights, which are so terrible in this country.”

Following the case at the Central London Employment Tribunal in September and October, judge D A Pearl stated: “It is clear beyond any argument that the claimant was dismissed for the reason that she had taken part in the activities of the independent trade union.”

They added Susana’s dismissal amounted to an “unjustified restraint on an employee’s right to undertake lawful protest”.

Susana was on £6.75-an-hour when she walked out for the Living Wage, which was then an hourly rate of £9.40.

Petros Elia, UVW’s general secretary, who fought the case alongside Susana, told this paper: “I think this must be one of the highest amounts of compensation ever awarded in a case.

“She’s being given the money she’s owed for fighting so hard.”

The UVW union describes itself as “a members-led campaigning trade union which represents vulnerable groups of precarious, low-paid and predominantly migrant workers”.

It’s reported Britannia will appeal against the ruling of “automatic unfair dismissal”.

You can see the full judgment here.

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