Security Firm Faces Legal Action After Suspending Union Activist

Contractor Wilson James says that Cetin Avsar's "opinion" and "work with the union" are possible grounds for dismissal.
Simon Childs
London, United Kingdom
November 18, 2020, 12:16pm
Cetin Avsar speaks at a  United Voices of the World  protest at St. George’s University Hospital in London in February.
Cetin Avsar speaks at a United Voices of the World protest at St. George’s  University Hospital in London in February. Photo: Peter Marshall / Alamy Stock Photo

A union activist has been suspended from his job as a security guard for trade union activity at a previous workplace.

The United Voices of the World (UVW) union told VICE World News that the way Cetin Avsar had been treated is the most "blatant and egregious violation of a worker's human rights" it has seen in eight years, and described the employer’s hypocrisy as “staggering”. 

Avsar is a security guard who works for contractor Wilson James at the Francis Crick Institute in London. In a letter inviting Avsar to a probation hearing, Wilson James says, “At this time, your conduct has not reached the required standards,” but does not provide any examples of poor conduct. The full grounds given for the hearing are Avsar’s trade union activity at his previous workplace.

Avsar was previously employed by contractor Bidvest Noonan at St. George’s Hospital also in London, where he led a campaign for outsourced workers to be given the same terms as in-house employees. He did this with the UVW, a small trade union that organises many outsourced migrant workers.

The practice of outsourcing has been criticised as discriminatory, as it creates a two-tiered workforce in which outsourced workers – the majority of whom are BAME women – suffer worse conditions than their in-house counterparts.

The letter from Wilson James says: “Wilson James are also a contractor, which fundamentally means that there is a conflict of interest between [Avsar’s] opinion and work with the union which lead to [his] protesting, and [his] employment with Wilson James.”

It also encloses as evidence a list of articles and tweets showing Avsar’s past trade union activity. 

UVW is now seeking a high court injunction to prevent Avsar from being dismissed, and has sent a pre-action letter to Wilson James.

In response to the suspension, Avsar said: “I am totally shocked by the way Wilson James is treating me. They are totally victimising me for being a member of UVW union and for having taken lawful strike action against my previous employer, Bidvest Noonan at St. George’s of London. This has caused me a lot of distress. I have done nothing wrong. They are breaching my human rights and I will not stand for it.”

UVW organiser Petros Elia said: “In my eight years as a trade unionist, I have never seen such a blatant and egregious violation of a worker’s human rights. This is far more than just a case of victimisation. Mr. Avsar is also being punished for his beliefs that outsourcing, a practice which more often than not sees BAME and migrant workers in London receive inferior pay rates to their white in-house counterparts, is racist, discriminatory and unjust.” 

“The hypocrisy of Wilson James is staggering,” Elia continued. “They have slapped a Black Lives Matter poster on the front of their website and waxed lyrical about how their industry ‘needs to do more for those from BAME backgrounds’, but in the same breath are unlawfully punishing a BAME key worker for having taken lawful industrial action at his former workplace.” 

A spokesperson for Wilson James said: “Wilson James is aware of the claims made by UVW, but as the situation concerning Mr Avsar remains under review, it would not be appropriate to provide further comment at this time.”

@SimonChilds13