UK: 5 Hertford Street kitchen porters protest low wages & working conditions as threats of dismissal used to force workers to accept terms under new outsourcing company; incl. co. comments

In June 2019, the Independent Workers' Union of Great Britain (IWGB) demanded exclusive Mayfair club, 5 Hertford Street, ensure its kitchen porters are paid living wage, and that their conditions be maintained, after being outsourced to ACT Clean. It was revealed that the kitchen porters were threatened with dismissal if they did not sign the contract, resulting in 5 workers resigning. Nineteen of the workers joined the IWGB, who have protested outside the club, demanding living wage and fair working conditions.

Kitchen porters were found earning £8.65 an hour, working up to 48-hours a week, receiving 20-minute unpaid lunch breaks, and not being paid overtime. Workers also lacked occupational sick pay, and a clause in their contract forbid them from talking to the media without permission. Wages were increased to £9 after pressure, however this 35p increase was deemed insignificant.

In August 2019, the union launched a petition, after kitchen porters reported some workers had been suspended following the protests. 

Comments from ACT Clean and 5 Hertford Street can be seen in the articles below.

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Article
21 August 2019

UK: Kitchen porters at Mayfair club suspended after protesting low wages

Author: Ben Quinn, The Guardian

"Union demands living wage for workers at Johnson backer's club", 19 August 2019

[Independent Workers Union of Great Britain] has launched a petition to support migrant kitchen porters who say they were suspended after campaigning for the London living wage...one worker was suspended at the end of July and seven others were suspended later, according to the union...

...The union launched a petition accusing the cleaning company of victimising workers and suspending them on trumped-up charges while denying them occupational sick pay...the petition calls for the workers to be guaranteed the London living wage of £10.55 per hour and for an end to the outsourcing of kitchen porters...

Henry Chango Lopez, the IWGB president, said: “The 5 Hertford Street kitchen porters had a very simple and fair demand: to not be treated like the dirty dishes they clean. Management’s response has been to intimidate workers with suspensions on absurd grounds...

...ACT Clean and 5 Hertford St have been approached for comment.

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Article
20 August 2019

UK: Kitchen porters for exclusive London club protest low wages and ‘measly’ conditions under new outsourcing company

Author: Owen Jones, The Guardian

"The posh club v its workers: this low-pay battle says a lot about Britain", 18 July 2019

...while royals and Hollywood A-listers party, kitchen porters spend hours...cleaning kitchens on poverty pay...Until a campaign began, the porters were paid a derisory £8.65 an hour, nearly £2 below the London living wage...Under pressure, the club was forced to offer a 35p hike, but it is still far short...Lacking occupational sick pay, staff are paid nothing for the first three days of illness, and just £94.25 a week thereafter...they are allowed an unpaid 20-minute break, but even that can be impossible when the club is busy..

When the club recently outsourced its kitchen porters to ACT Clean – which has refused to comment – staff were threatened with dismissal if they didn’t sign a contract undermining already measly terms and conditions. Five resigned. But nearly half of the 19 kitchen porters joined the IWGB, which has played a critical role in organising migrant workers in particular in precarious work...

The club...is “proud that all of our employees, including our kitchen porters, are paid well above the government’s minimum wage and, indeed, well above the industry average” and that workers have “access to a range of other benefits”...It accuses the IWGB of not bothering to seek recognition and of “hypocrisy” for not focusing on lower wages elsewhere, and says that the club conducts its “business in an entirely legal manner”

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Article
19 August 2019

UK: 5 Hertford Street kitchen porters threaten to strike over poor wages

Author: Ashleigh Webber, Personnel Today

"Mayfair club kitchen porters call for the Living Wage", 6 June 2019

The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) has urged one of London’s most exclusive membership clubs to ensure its kitchen staff are paid the London Living Wage and their conditions maintained as they are outsourced to another employer...

...The staff were recently outsourced to cleaning company ACT Clean. IWGB said workers feared this would result the conditions being eroded further and put them at risk of reduced pay and zero-hours contracts.

Around 19 members of staff have threatened to go on strike if their pay is not increased to the London Living Wage of £10.55 an hour, which is set by the Living Wage Foundation.

According to payslips and contracts...the kitchen porters earn £8.65 an hour, work up to a 48-hour week, receive a 20-minute unpaid lunch break and are not paid for overtime.

A spokesperson for ACT Clean told the Times that staff had been told they would stay on the same contracts when they transferred to the company. 5 Hertford Street club was not available for comment at the time of publication.

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