Last month we published a story and film report, Exploitation in Mayfair – the 5 Hertford Street private members club about a grassroots union’s fight for fairer conditions for kitchen porters.
The next day we received correspondence from Dragon Advisory, a PR and ‘reputation management’ company acting on behalf of the club, threatening legal action over our report.
They listed a series of corrections they wanted. One was a factual error about the number of kitchen staff who were members of the IWGB union, which we corrected immediately. Real Media is committed to fairness and accuracy.
But Chester Alden, an associate at Dragon, made six more claims of inaccuracy, and while we reflected some of these in amendments to represent a right to reply, he has been unable to provide any more information or evidence to back up some of his complaints.
We reported that the when the porters were outsourced by the club to ActClean, their hourly rates were increased to £9. Mr Alden claimed that the club’s millionaire owner, Robin Birley had actually increased their wages (still well below the London Living Wage) before the transfer. But despite repeated requests, Mr Alden has failed to provide any date to back this up.
We also reported that the many burly men in suits who had barricaded the public right of way outside the club were not identifiable as SIA-approved security guards. Only one was displaying an SIA licence and several others refused to confirm whether they were licensed and were not displaying any licences. There are strict guidelines and laws around private security, and we’ve asked Mr Alden to clarify the roles of the security men and why only one was wearing their identification, and again he has been unable to do so.
Mr Alden also complained that we’d implied the 5 Hertford Street club had refused to negotiate with the union. We referred him to correspondence between the union and the club, which demonstrated that 5HS had indeed refused a request for union recognition. He has not got back to us on this point.
Since our article, the outsourced cleaning company, ActClean has suspended the 8 union members in what the union claims is an act of victimisation. A petition to reinstate them and agree to the union’s demands has attracted nearly a thousand signatures to date.
Interestingly, one of the claims made by Mr Alden, that UKIP donor Robin Birley had offered the £9 pay rise BEFORE the outsourcing transfer, was also reported in national corporate media, but no legal threats were made to them. So it looks as though Dragon were just trying to intimidate a small independent media company with legal action over claims they can’t substantiate, and at the same time outsourcing company ActClean suspended the Mayfair club’s workers over what the union describe as “trumped up charges”. Anyone see a pattern here?
According to their website, Dragon’s clients include the Bahrain International Circuit, which is viewed by activists as an important part of the repressive Bahrain regime’s public relations campaign to whitewash its legacy of torture and human rights abuse. Dragon also represent Lendlease, the massive building company known for blacklisting union activists, which was involved in the controversial Haringey Development Vehicle scheme and numerous other gentrification projects.
We await further information and evidence from Mr Alden and the 5 Hertford Street team.