Migrant Workers at Boris Johnson donor's club to strike for sick pay on 11 & 12 December

Sebastien Flais

5 December 2019

  • Kitchen porters to strike at 5 Hertford Street private members club, dubbed “Brexit HQ”
  • The club is owned by millionaire Brexiteer Robin Birley, who donated over £250,000 to UKIP and £20,000 to Boris Johnson
  • Kitchen porters, who often have to work when sick, are demanding proper occupational sick pay and union recognition

5 December: Kitchen porters working at a private members club owned by millionaire Brexiteer Robin Birley will go out on strike for 48 hours on 11 and 12 December.

The porters, all of whom are migrant workers, are demanding proper occupational sick pay and union recognition for the purposes of collective bargaining. Their union, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), has launched an appeal to raise money for the strike fund, which can be found here.

Currently, the porters are on the statutory 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.

Last month, after the workers returned a 100% yes vote in favour of strike action, the club agreed to pay the London Living Wage of £10.75 per hour from January 2020.

Robin Birley, the owner of the club dubbed “Brexit HQ”, recently donated £20,000 to Boris 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.

IWGB President Henry Chango Lopez said: “By campaigning together, the kitchen porters have managed to push the club to end its policy of poverty wages and start paying the London Living Wage. But the conditions they face are still unconscionable. They deserve proper sick pay and to bargain collectively for their basic terms and conditions. The club has a choice: Give in to these demands or face strike action.”

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 in June, £9.50 in November and finally agreed to pay the London Living Wage after the kitchen porters voted to strike.

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 kitchen porters were briefly working for outsourcing company Act Clean between June and September 2019.

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.

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