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Revealed: The letter cleaning boss sent to single mother on £13-an-hour when he fired her for eating a leftover £1.50 tuna sandwich she had found in City law firm meeting room


This is the letter sent by a hard-hearted boss sacking a cleaner for eating a leftover tuna sandwich.

Single mother Gabriela Rodriguez was fired after she munched on the £1.50 Tesco sandwich left out on a discarded platter for workers at a City law firm.

Now she is claiming for unfair dismissal against the cleaning firm which employed her.

Gabriela, 39, from Ecuador launched her unfair dismissal claim after she worked for Total Clean, which was contracted to top corporate law firm Devonshires.

Total Clean boss Graham Petersen wrote to Gabriela, following a disciplinary hearing on November 23.

Gabriela Rodriguez, 39, (pictured) was said to have been fired from her £13-an-hour job for the 'theft' of a leftover tuna sandwich which was due to be thrown away after a meeting

Gabriela Rodriguez, 39, (pictured) was said to have been fired from her £13-an-hour job for the ‘theft’ of a leftover tuna sandwich which was due to be thrown away after a meeting

Total Clean operations director Graham Petersen wrote to Gabriela following a disciplinary hearing on November 23

Total Clean operations director Graham Petersen wrote to Gabriela following a disciplinary hearing on November 23

Campaigners protested Gabriela's sacking, marching outside Devonshire's offices

Campaigners protested Gabriela’s sacking, marching outside Devonshire’s offices

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

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

Following an investigation, Gabriela was told by Total Clean’s head of operations, Graham Petersen: ‘At the hearing your explanation was that you found a sandwich in the kitchen near the end of your shift and took it without giving it 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.’

He said he had weight up whether a lesser sanction than sacking might be ‘appropriate’, but decided against it and concluded: ‘You are therefore dismissed with immediate effect from Total Clean. You are not entitled to notice or pay in lieu of notice.’

Gabriela Rodrigues is claiming for unfair dismissal against the cleaning firm which employed her

 Gabriela Rodrigues is claiming for unfair dismissal against the cleaning firm which employed her

The single mother from Ecuador launched the claim after she worked for an agency that was contracted to London corporate law firm Devonshires

The single mother from Ecuador launched the claim after she worked for an agency that was contracted to London corporate law firm Devonshires

The grassroots UVW Union for migrant workers said in an appeal letter on Gabriela’s behalf: ‘There were various full trays of leftover sandwiches that had been laid out for staff to eat.

‘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.’

Campaigners protested Gabriela’s sacking, marching outside Devonshire’s offices armed with 100 cans of tuna and 300 sandwiches.

‘They held placards reading ‘Sacked for a Sandwich?’ and ‘We are not the dirt – we clean’, and gave out leaflets which read: ‘I ate a leftover tuna sandwich and got sacked!’. Gabriela, who lives in north London, does not speak English and relied on her job to support her daughter, 10.

Supporters said she had worked for the company for two years with an ‘impeccable record’.

Total Clean operations director Graham Petersen (pictured) said he had weight up whether a lesser sanction than sacking might be 'appropriate' but decided against it

Total Clean operations director Graham Petersen (pictured) said he had weight up whether a lesser sanction than sacking might be ‘appropriate’ but decided against it

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

Signs made at a United Voices of the World union meeting ahead of protest action outside the offices of the law firm

Signs made at a United Voices of the World union meeting ahead of protest action outside the offices of the law firm 

UVW general secretary Petros Elia added: ‘Cleaners are routinely dismissed on trivial and, we argue, discriminatory, grounds like this every day around the country.

‘Many describe feeling treated like the dirt they clean, and Gabriela is one of them.

‘She was dismissed by Total Clean but the law firm should not have complained in the first place.’

‘They wouldn’t have complained were it anyone else who had eaten a sandwich – and definitely not if it was a lawyer.’Total Clean, which last year posted profits of £1.6m, sent Gabriela a dismissal letter accusing her of ‘theft’ after she ‘removed food for a client’s special event’. 

According to supporters, Gabriela appealed her dismissal but Total Clean refused to reinstate her.

‘The union is now helping Gabriela take legal action alleging unfair dismissal and discrimination. In a statement, Total Clean accused UVW and Gabriela of ‘misleading and inaccurate information’ but declined to specify.

But the company added: ‘It is important to us to maintain the integrity of our workforce and service by ensuring we deal appropriately with any actions that undermine the hard work and reputation of our incredible team who conduct themselves impeccably.

‘Trust and honesty is of paramount importance.

‘All steps taken have been in accordance with UK employment law following the proper investigative and disciplinary process. We will be making no further comment on the matter.’Devonshires, whose hose highest-paid member received £1.68 million in 2023, said it had not asked Total Clean to take action against Gabriela.

A spokesman said: ‘Devonshires did not make a formal complaint against Gabriela and expressly told Total Clean not to take any against her.

‘Total Clean carried out their own investigation and the decision to dismiss Gabriela was taken without any input or influence from Devonshires whatsoever.

‘This is a private matter between Total Clean and Gabriela but we have made clear to Total Clean that we would not object, as we never have done, to Gabriela attending and working on our premises if Total Clean changes its position.’



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