Dorchester Collection to protect staff from Brunei boycott
Arvind Hickman, May 19, 2014
The Dorchester Collection has promised to protect jobs, wages and benefits in spite of a potentially harmful boycott due to the company’s links to Brunei.
The hotel group, which employees 3,750 staff across 10 hotels, has come under attack recently from celebrities, including Ellen DeGeneres, Jay Leno, Sharon Osbourne and Stephen Fry, for its links with Brunei. The country recently imposed draconian sharia laws that increased the punishment for homosexuality from a 10-year prison sentence to death.
The Dorchester Collection is owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, an arm of Brunei’s finance ministry.
Events have been cancelled at the group’s iconic Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles with estimated loses of $1.5 million, and the financial impact is starting to make its way to this side of the Atlantic.
Last week, the British Society of Magazine Editors (BSME) pulled out of holding its 2014 BSME Awards at the Dorchester Hotel, citing unease about the company’s links to Brunei.
Eugenio Pirri (pictured), the Dorchester Collection’s vice president of people and organisational development, told HR magazine the group is focused on protecting staff from any downturn in business.
“The majority of the effect is in the Los Angeles area. It’s been in the press, people have pulled out of our hotels and gone to other hotels. We are starting to see it in this side of the world but not to a significant degree like in Los Angeles,” Pirri said.
“We’ve made a public announcement to all of our employees across the 10 hotels that if there is a downturn in business we will secure their jobs and guarantee their wages, including their tip income and benefits. The board is 100% supportive. We will protect them whether this goes on for one month or more than a year.”
Protecting worker rights
The Dorchester Hotel has a company-wide equality policy in place to ensure staff are not discriminated against on the grounds of age, gender, race and sexual orientations, to name but a few. It also has a code of conduct enshrining worker rights and all staff must commit to an employee pledge.
Although the Dorchester Collection does not monitor staff sexual orientation, Pirri said the group has a “large amount of employees from that community in various positions all the way up to senior leadership”.
Pirri, who is himself gay, is passionate about equality and does not agree with laws that take away basic human rights.
“I feel very lucky that I work for a company that has a very strong code of ethics with regards to equality and how people are treated. That is my personal value system, it’s what I live and breathe every single day. It’s what I endeavour to do in my workplace and personal life,” he said.
“At the end of the day this is a much bigger issue than the hotel. If you want to make a stand then direct it to the offices that can actually make a difference, whether it is the White House or the prime minister. But by not coming to one of the hotels, [people] may feel they are making a difference, but it’s not going to make a difference – it’s only going to hurt people.”
Although the boycott has “concerned” staff, Pirri said it has only increased solidarity and employees are determined to defend the hotel group on social media and through other channels. He said not a single staff member has left the hotel group as a result of the boycott, which already has high staff engagement scores of more than 90% across the group.
“There’s more of a dedication from our employees who want to show the world we are a good employer and that this [boycott] isn’t going to stop them from delivering the ultimate guest experience,” Pirri said, pointing out that 97% of employees say they are “proud” to work at the company.
“It makes me emotional because they just want to do a good job and it hurts me that they are going through this," he added.