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‘Being sacked for eating a sandwich is unfair and inhumane’: Single mother, 39, who lost £13-an-hour cleaning job at law firm where staff earn up to £1.6m after taking leftovers slams her bosses and insists the food was only heading for the bin


A single mother who was sacked from her cleaning job for taking a leftover tuna sandwich from a law firm kitchen says she suffered ‘unfair and inhumane’ treatment.

Gabriela Rodriguez, 39, was axed by contractor Total Clean after helping herself to the £1.50 Tesco sandwich on a discarded platter for workers at City law firm Devonshires.

Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, she revealed how she had been left in tears and depressed at the decision to oust her and the way it was done.

Ecuadorian-born Gabriela, who moved to the UK from Spain a decade ago with her 10-year-old child Nicole, said: ‘I’m still so angry about the way I’ve been treated.

‘I’ve been accused of theft when all I did was eat a small sandwich that was probably going to end up in the bin.

A single mother who was sacked from her cleaning job for taking a leftover tuna sandwich from a law firm kitchen says she suffered 'unfair and inhumane' treatment

A single mother who was sacked from her cleaning job for taking a leftover tuna sandwich from a law firm kitchen says she suffered ‘unfair and inhumane’ treatment

Ecuadorian-born Gabriela moved to the UK from Spain a decade ago with her 10-year-old child Nicole

Ecuadorian-born Gabriela moved to the UK from Spain a decade ago with her 10-year-old child Nicole

Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, she revealed how she had been left in tears and depressed at the decision to oust her and the way it was done

Single mother Gabriela Rodriguez, 39, was axed by contractor Total Clean after helping herself to the £1.50 Tesco sandwich on a discarded platter for workers at City law firm Devonshires

Single mother Gabriela Rodriguez, 39, was axed by contractor Total Clean after helping herself to the £1.50 Tesco sandwich on a discarded platter for workers at City law firm Devonshires

Ms Rodriguez's colleagues have demonstrated outside the central London HQ of solicitors Devonshires, where top lawyers earn £1.68 million a year, with cans of tuna and banners saying: 'Sacked for a sandwich?' and 'We are not the dirt, we clean.'

Ms Rodriguez’s colleagues have demonstrated outside the central London HQ of solicitors Devonshires, where top lawyers earn £1.68 million a year, with cans of tuna and banners saying: ‘Sacked for a sandwich?’ and ‘We are not the dirt, we clean.’

‘I put it in the fridge to have after my shift ended, because the sandwiches were left in the kitchen for other staff when ground-floor meetings finished, and I understood I had the right to eat it as someone who worked in the building.

‘There must have been around five trays with left-over food, including crisps and sandwiches, and I only took one small one with tuna and cucumber inside.

‘It would have been around 2.30pm, so lunch-time was virtually over, and almost certainly the sandwich I ate and most of the others on the trays would have ended up being thrown away.’

She added: ‘The way they got rid of me was horrible.

‘A week went by without anyone saying anything, and then about 15 minutes before the end of my shift when I was at the Devonshires building, a Total Clean manager and the company’s Human Resources manager came in and told me I was being suspended without pay and and had to hand in my pass and leave immediately.

‘They told me it was because I had taken a sandwich without permission and I couldn’t believe it.

‘I went back home and I spent the rest of the day in a state of total shock. I felt so upset and offended.

‘There were a lot of tears and days when I had no appetite. That and the worry of not knowing how I’d cope financially because I’m a single mum bringing up a young daughter on just the one salary.’

In a social media campaign, the United Voices of the World union said the value of the sandwich in question cost no more than £1.50

In a social media campaign, the United Voices of the World union said the value of the sandwich in question cost no more than £1.50

Copy of the letter sent to Ms Rodriguez in November last year by Graham Peterson

Copy of the letter sent to Ms Rodriguez in November last year by Graham Peterson

Total Clean operations director Graham Petersen said he had weighed up whether a lesser sanction than sacking might be 'appropriate'

Total Clean operations director Graham Petersen said he had weighed up whether a lesser sanction than sacking might be ‘appropriate’

Ms Rodriguez is claiming unfair dismissal against the cleaning firm which employed her with the help of the grassroots UVW Union for migrant workers which she is a member of.

Today MailOnline published the letter sent by hard-hearted Total Clean boss Graham Petersen confirming her sacking following her appeal and a November 23 2023 disciplinary hearing held over Zoom after the sandwich incident nine days earlier.

The letter stated: ‘At the hearing your explanation was that you found a sandwich in the kitchen near the end of your shift and took it without a second thought.

‘You stated that previously the client had left food in the kitchen and offered it out, so you thought it was fine.

‘I considered your explanation to be unsatisfactory because you confirmed that no one had offered you the food in the kitchen but decided to take it anyway.

‘I have decided that your conduct has resulted in a fundamental breach of your contractual terms which irrevocably destroys the trust and confidence necessary to continue the employment relationship.’

Ms Rodriguez’s colleagues have demonstrated outside the central London HQ of solicitors Devonshires, where top lawyers earn £1.68 million a year, with cans of tuna and banners saying: ‘Sacked for a sandwich?’ and ‘We are not the dirt, we clean.’

Signs made at a United Voices of the World union meeting ahead of protest action

Signs made at a United Voices of the World union meeting ahead of protest action

A UVW Union spokesman insisted today: ‘Gabriela understood she was also allowed to eat this food.

‘It is so incredibly far beyond the realms of reasonableness and comprehension to dismiss an employee for eating a leftover tuna and cucumber sandwich.

‘We now understand that the privilege of eating leftover sandwiches perhaps does not extend to the outsourced migrant workforce in the building.’

Ms Rodriguez told MailOnline: ‘No-one else was in the kitchen at the time and no-one said anything to me so I’m still not sure if I’ve been filmed on CCTV.

‘Although Devonshires are now saying they didn’t complain and are happy to have me back on their premises, the Total Clean manager who came to the building just before my shift ended and told me to hand in my pass said it was because the building manager from the law firm had complained and accused me of stealing a sandwich.

‘It was mortifying for me to be accused of theft. I consider my treatment was unfair and denigrating.

‘I’m a very conscientious person who’s always tried to do their job to the highest standards possible and I’d never had any previous complaints from anyone I’d worked with.

‘About £1,000 of the £1,700 I received after tax while I was still at Total Clean and working as a sub-contractor in Devonshires and Stradivarius where I was a supervisor, went on the rent on the one-bed flat I share with my daughter.

‘Getting by each month on the rest of my salary with a young child to look after was never easy and I had to fall back on the little savings I had and help from family when I was fired.

‘It was just before Christmas and I started to panic about what I’d do and how I’d cope.

‘Luckily I got good references from people I’ve met and worked with in the years I’ve been living in the UK and I’ve now got a new job as a full-time production worker in a clothes factory and am very happy there.’

She added: ‘I wouldn’t want to return to Total Clean even if they did admit they were wrong and offer me my job back.

‘I received the letter Graham Petersen sent me confirming my dismissal just after I’d finished my lunch and the words and the tone of it caused me indigestion.

‘I’m no thief and I’m no trade union militant which is the other thing I’ve been called.

‘I’m an honest single mum trying her best to earn a decent living doing what I consider to be very honourable professions.

‘I’m happy my union is helping me fight my dismissal from Total Clean. Too many people say nothing and put up with mistreatment out of fear.

‘Enough is enough. I’m talking out now and am refusing to stay silent because I did nothing wrong.’



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