Workers at ‘Brexit HQ’ elite Mayfair club to go on strike

IWGB Kitchen Porters to Strike At 5 Hertford Street in Mayfair
Mohamed Elmaazi

Workers at an exclusive private members’ club, 5 Hertford Street in Mayfair, have declared their intention to go on strike. They will strike on 11 and 12 December over demands for “proper occupational sick pay and union recognition”.

Mayfair contains some of the most expensive property in London. According to the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), the kitchen porters are currently only entitled to statutory sick pay, meaning “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”. As a result, the IWGB says, workers feel compelled to work while sick or injured because they can’t afford the loss of income.

‘Brexit HQ’ Based in Mayfair

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The elite venue is known for its connections to anti-immigrant and pro-Brexit politicians and right-wing oligarchs. For example, according to the Times, the club is owned by millionaire Brexiteer Robin Birley, who has donated over £250,000 to UKIP and £20,000 to Boris Johnson. The anti-immigrant founder of UKIP, Nigel Farage, has been spotted there, as has Richard Tice who co-founded the pro-Brexit Leave.EU along with its millionaire financeer Aaron Banks. Leave.EU is infamous for promoting the line, “Immigration Without Assimilation Equals Invasion”.

Pro-Brexit campaigner Andrew Wigmore even went so far as to characterise 5 Hertford Street as “Brexit HQ”:

It is therefore perhaps ironic that every one of the kitchen porters is an immigrant to the UK, according to the IWGB.

Building Upon Past Success

In November, the workers “returned a 100% yes vote” to strike over a living wage. The IWGB said that porters were paid £9.50 per hour until the Mayfair club caved in to demands for the wages to be increased to the London living wage of £10.55 set by the London Living Wage Foundation. In fact, until June, the club only paid workers £8.65 per hour in a club where “annual membership allegedly costs £1,800” according to the IWGB. The union also claimed that “a decision to outsource the workers to facilities management company Act Clean” was reversed due to organising by the workers. Some colleagues who were suspended, on what the union called “trumped up charges”, have also been reinstated.

IWGB president Henry Chango Lopez stated:

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.

A statement from 5 Hertford Street said that it would be “very surprised if any action went ahead, as – following meetings and discussions with the IWGB over recent weeks and months – the substance of the issues raised has been successfully addressed”.

The statement then pointed out that the London Living Wage, which workers will start receiving in the New Year, “is 31% higher than the official minimum wage”. It also said that the club “will be amongst the first in the industry to pay it”.

5 Hertford Street addressed the matter of sick pay too. It said it “also agreed that once kitchen porters have been employed by the club for six months they will be eligible for full sick pay up to 5 days”.

The company concluded by saying:

The union’s final demand was that it should be recognised for formal wage bargaining. The process of union recognition is a legal one, and the IWGB will – like every other union – have to meet the necessary criteria and apply. Only 10 of our 250 members of staff are members of the IWGB, so it would be inappropriate for the club formally to recognise the union but as demonstrated during our recent discussions we are quite prepared to have a constructive relationship.

The IGWB has launched an appeal to raise money for the strike fund.

Featured image via IWGB

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