31 October: Kitchen porters working at a private members club owned by millionaire Brexiteer Robin Birley are being balloted for strike action by their union, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB).
The porters, all of whom are migrant workers, are demanding they be paid the London Living Wage of £10.55 an hour and proper occupational sick pay.
Robin Birley, the owner of the club dubbed “Brexit HQ”, recently donated £20,000 to Brois Johnson's leadership campaign and had previously donated more than £250,000 to UKIP. The other directors of the club are Ben Goldsmith, James Adam Reuben and Clive Stuart Richardson.
Prior to the launch of the IWGB's campaign in May, kitchen porters at 5 Hertford Street were only paid £8.65 per hour, barely enough to survive in London. Under the pressure of the campaign the club was forced to increase their pay to £9 per hour, but that is still far below the London Living Wage of £10.55 per hour.
The union also managed to force the club to reverse a decision to outsource the workers to facilities management company Act Clean and to suspend a number of workers on trumped up charges, following a petition that was signed by almost a thousand people. The cleaners were breifly working for Act Clean between XX and 30 September 2019.
The porters are on the statuatory minimum sick pay, so they get no money at all the first three days they are off work with an illness and then are only paid £94.25 per week. This means many of them are forced to work while they are ill, just to be able to pay their rent and keep the lights on.
IWGB President Henry Chango Lopez said: “If Robin Birley can donate hundreds of thousands of pounds to UKIP and Boris Johnson, then he has enough money to pay his kitchen porters the London Living Wage and give them proper proper sick pay. It's disgraceful that in a restaurant that is attended by some of the richest people in the world, workers have to work when they are ill because they can't afford to take time off. Now Birley has a choice, he can either pay up, or be forced to serve his meals on dirty dishes because those that clean them are out on strike.”
5 Hertford Street is one of the most exclusive clubs in London, where annual membership allegedly costs £1,800 and it is reported that even some billionaires don't make the cut.
The strike ballot closes on 4 November.
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