Harrods tip demo: Up to six arrests as police defend posh store

UVW treasurer Dan Stone speaking outside Harrods yesterday

Six people were arrested on January 7th after police piled in to protect posh department store Harrods from its own staff and their supporters — including UVW union general secretary Petros Elia.

Two early detainees were taken to Charing Cross police station while Petros and others were detained at Belgravia. Petros was held for 17 hours before being released without charge. In a statement, he said:

Firstly, thank you everyone for your amazing messages of support and solidarity over the past 24 hours and especially thank you to those that came to the police station.

Needless to say that the allegation against me is 100% false, not that the police were interested in evidence at the point of arrest. They seldom are when it comes to protesters or trade unionists whom they always arrest with alacrity.

Despite there being not a shred of evidence against me I have been released on bail and prohibited from going within 50 metres of Harrods. The police have therefore temporarily banned me from representing members of UVW at Harrods or from protesting outside their store. This has all sorts of human rights implications.

The police would appear to be, once again, politically policing, and perhaps even acting, in this case, on behalf of the Qatar Royal Family, who owns Harrods and apparently even more of London than the Crown Estate, to stamp out United Voices of the World’s unionisation of Harrods workers, most of whom are on poverty or very low wages, and get up to 75% of their tips stolen in the case of the 500 restaurant staff.

On a side note, the demo was fantastic and we will now be escalating the campaign with a run of demonstrations and other actions at Harrods until 100% of tips go to staff.

Many of Harrods’ 483 porters, waiters and chefs are organising to stop bosses at the firm – owned by the Qatari royal family – from taking up to 75% of their tips, amounting to up to £5,000 per person every year. Panicked execs promised to “look at” how service charges are dealt with last month following threats of a Christmas strike, but are yet to actually change the policy.

The lively protest saw dozens of people noisily crowding the doors to the famous department store to demand respect for staff, and other supporters inside the building distributed 500 notes hidden in boxes and pockets all over the shop for customers to find:

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UVW reported yesterday that a record number of the company’s chefs called in sick on the day, and a record number of security guards were on site, including many hired in specially for the protest: “At least one in every room on the ground floor. And they’re not even the regular Harrods security. They’ve hired a specialist, private security firm. Shame on Harrods for wasting money on security instead of just sitting down to talk with the workers and giving them a 100% of the service charge.”

Harrods, which says it runs a tronc system to pool and manage tips “on behalf” of employees by pushing customers to pay service charges through its own computer system rather than in cash, generously noted that “employees are not required to accept any deduction in their salary in order to participate” in the scheme taking most of their tips.

“We have been engaging with our staff directly on this issue,” bosses added.