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Dorchester Collection vows to protect staff as Brunei boycott continues

Post a commentBy Carina Perkins+ , 19-May-2014
Last updated the 20-May-2014 at 10:48 GMT

Related topics: Business, Venues, People, Hotels

The Dorchester Collection has vowed to protect staff jobs and wages as the boycott of its properties continues, with its Park Lane hotel the latest to suffer high profile cancellations.

Major events have been pulled from The Dorchester on Park Lane

Major events have been pulled from The Dorchester on Park Lane

The hotel group, owned by the investment arm of Brunei’s Ministry of Finance, has been the subject of a high profile celebrity boycott since the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced he would implement Sharia laws, including the death penalty for homosexuality, in Brunei.

Protests began in the US but have since spread internationally , and the hotel’s UK properties have started to feel the effect. Last week, the British Society of Magazine Editors announced it would be moving its annual awards dinner from The Dorchester and the Royal Philharmonic Society confirmed it might do the same.

Gay rights charity Stonewall - which holds its annual dinner at the prestigious Park Lane hotel - also joined the boycott after initially refusing to do so. 

Protecting staff

In an interview with HR Magazine published on 19 May, the Dorchester Collection’s vice president of people and organisational development, stressed that the majority of the impact was being felt in Los Angeles rather than the UK.

However, he recognised staff concern and said the company had made a public promise to secure jobs and guarantee wages – including tips and benefits – regardless of business losses.

“We will protect them whether this goes on for one month or more than a year,” he said.

He added that staff continued to show impressive dedication, and not a single staff member had left group as a result of the boycott.

Dorchester Collection chief executive Christopher Cowdray confirmed to BigHospitality that all jobs would be protected, and wages guaranteed.

"Dorchester Collection has guaranteed that all employee jobs are secure, and that wages (including service charges, gratuities and benefits) will be maintained despite any decline in business," he said.

Magazine and music awards

The British Society of Magazine Editors (BSME) was due to hold the 2014 BSME awards at The Dorchester for the first time in November but pulled out last week after a committee vote.

In a letter to members, BSME Chair Guy Woodward said the organisation had been ‘very much looking forward’ to holding the event at the prestigious London hotel for the first time, but there was a ‘clear majority view’ among the BSME committee that it would not be appropriate due to the Sultan’s ‘draconian new laws’.

“There has been much disquiet among the BSME committee regarding the news, to the extent that it was the clear majority view that we simply cannot, with a clear conscience, host an event that represents the magazine industry at the hotel. We have, therefore, taken the decision to withdraw from our agreement with The Dorchester,” he said.

According to a report in the Independent, The Royal Philharmonic Society is also considering moving its annual awards ceremony – which has taken place at The Dorchester for 20 years – from the hotel next year.

The RPS staged this year’s Music Awards at the hotel on Tuesday, but the organisation’s chairman John Gilhooly said it had only done so because pulling out would have caused financial difficulties. He used his speech at the ceremony to condemn Brunei’s new laws and hinted the event would be moved in the future.

 The society is now consulting with stakeholders over options for next year’s awards, and a senior member told the Independent it was unlikely the awards would return to the Park Lane hotel.

Stonewall joins boycott

Meanwhile, Stonewall – which held its annual Equality Dinner at The Dorchester on Park Lane in April - has also now joined the boycott.

“I can confirm that we will not be using the Dorchester for our future events," stated Stonewall acting chief executive Ruth Hunt today. "We simply do not need this distraction from the vital work of promoting respect for the human rights of LGBT people the world over.”

Hunt originally refused to join the boycott on the basis that it might do more harm than good.

“I do not believe the somewhat beleaguered Christopher Cowdray, Chief Executive of the Collection, can somehow influence the implementation of Sharia criminal code in Brunei. He can't," she stated. “I do, however, fear that the boycott could do very real harm to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people of Brunei."

However, the charity changed its stance after coming under fire from members of the LGBT community and Tory peer Lord Deben, who said he believed 'everyone' should join the boycott.

UK action

Stephen Fry and Richard Branson were among the first UK celebrities to publicly support the Dorchester Collection boycott, with Fry cancelling a booking at Coworth Park and Branson ordering all Virgin employees to avoid Dorchester Collection hotels.

X-men actor Patrick Stewart also took to Twitter to state he was "absolutely delighted to learn that @20thcenturyfox has moved #XMen out of a Dorchester Group hotel for our London premiere".

Dorchester Collection chief executive Christopher Cowdray told US press earlier this month that the group's Beverly Hills Hotel had lost $1.5m as a result of cancellations.

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