Corporate giants and firms owned by billionaires have been exposed as not even paying their workers the minimum wage.
They include a hotel group controlled by the multi‑billionaire tax exile Sir Jim Ratcliffe.
Investigated between 2016 and 2018, the 139 named companies failed to pay £6.7 million to over 95,000 workers in total.
The businesses were named by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) on New Year’s Eve.
Ratcliffe, who has an estimated £12 billion fortune, owns 55 percent of Home Grown Hotels. It failed to pay £13,790 to 25 workers.
The company said this related to “inadvertent breaches of very complex regulations”. Beis said, “One of the main causes of minimum wage breaches was low-paid employees being made to cover work costs, such as paying for uniform, training or parking fees.”
Another firm cited by Beis was Britain’s largest private sector employer, Tesco.
It underpaid 78,199 workers a total of £5.1 million. The announcement coincided with its former chief executive Dave Lewis being knighted in the New Year’s honours list.
Also on the list of offenders were the restaurant chain Pizza Hut, Superdrug stores, Müller UK, The Lowry luxury hotel group and St Johnstone Football Club.
The smaller employers include “Mrs Therese Ann Binns, trading as Winston Churchill”.
Bosses have little to fear when they are caught underpaying.
All they have to do is to make up the arrears to wages. They may also face fines, but these are capped at twice the arrears, a pittance to the corporate giants.
None of the penalties have been made public.
There are only about 2,200 billionaires out of a 7.8 billion-strong global population. Collectively they grew £1.5 trillion richer last year, according to Forbes magazine.
That brings their total wealth to £8.4 trillion, a 20 percent increase from just a year ago.
Calls to mental health helplines and prescriptions for antidepressants have reached an all-time high. Meanwhile access to potentially life-saving talking therapies has plunged during the coronavirus pandemic, a Guardian report found.
More than 6 million people in England received antidepressants in the three months to September, the highest on record.
Donald Trump pardons Blackwater murderers
In his last weeks as president, Donald Trump pardoned four Blackwater security guards who were given lengthy prison sentences for massacring 14 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007.
Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, Dustin Heard and Nicholas Slatten were part of an armoured convoy that opened fire indiscriminately with machine-guns and grenade launchers on a crowd. It became known as the Nisour Square massacre.
Mohammad Kinani, whose nine year old son Ali was killed, said, “That day changed my life forever. That day destroyed me completely.”
The US government admitted, “None of the victims was an insurgent, or posed any threat to the convoy”.
The four mercenaries were all former Marines. And they have friends in high places.
Trump’s education secretary, the billionaire Betsy DeVos is the sister of Erik Prince, Blackwater’s founder.
Glasgow hospital to keep Grenfell cladding
Scotland’s biggest health board has said it will not consider removing inflammable insulation material used in Grenfell Tower which remains in place at Scotland’s super-hospital in Glasgow.
The 60 metre‑high Queen Elizabeth University Hospital was clad in the Kingspan Kooltherm K15 insulation used at Grenfell Tower.
Recently the inquiry into the fire has heard that there was “deceit” over the product’s marketing and that it was known within the company to have failed fire tests.
K15 has never been replaced at the hospital after NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board said three years ago that Multiplex, the main contractor for the construction, provided assurances the material was properly installed.
Tories got spooks to brief bosses on subversives
In among the rather boring document releases from the national archive, historian Evan Smith spotted something.
The 1973 document “CAB 301/661—Request for Briefing on Industrial Subversion” is a small folder that shows that the Tory government was working with the bosses in a disturbing way.
Tim Powell, chairman of tractor-builder Massey‑Ferguson, had complained to Douglas Hurd, prime minister Edward Heath’s private secretary, that there was no way of knowing if they were recruiting “troublemakers” who could then prove impossible to sack.
In October 1973, Hurd wrote to Sir John Hunt, secretary of the cabinet, asking if there was a list of potentially subversive organisations that could be passed along.
Hunt then wrote to James Waddell, another senior civil servant, asking whether a list was possible.
He forwarded this to the head of MI5 Michael Hanley.
The civil servants were worried about giving out information and said they usually pointed the bosses to the Economic League.
This was the right wing group who ran blacklists of workers.
Robert Armstrong, another private sectary to Heath, wrote back to Sir John, telling him Powell was “too serious a person to be dismissed with a reference to the Economic League” and suggesting that he should be given “some degree of oral briefing”.
The meeting went ahead but what was discussed has not been released.
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