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“SLEAZY” goings-on at the Presidents Club charity fundraiser underline the case for making bosses legally liable for protecting their workers from harassment, hospitality union Unite said today.
Two undercover reporters infiltrated the swanky men-only do at London’s posh Dorchester Hotel last Thursday, reporting appalling abuse directed at the 130 hostesses hired for the event and instructed to wear skimpy outfits with matching underwear.
Unite said the allegations — including hands being thrust up waiting staff’s skirts or placed on their bum and “one man taking his penis out during the course of the dinner” — would be “all too familiar to people working throughout the hospitality industry.”
“Everyone involved in this event including the hotel, the agency that recruited the hostesses, the companies who purchased tables and the men who attended the event need to take a long hard look at themselves and ask is this behaviour acceptable in the 21st century,” said Unite not-for-profit sector officer Siobhan Endean.
She said third-party harassment provisions in the Equality Act had placed a legal duty on employers to protect their employees from harassment by customers, until the Tories got rid of them.
“Their axing has allowed employers to ignore this form of harassment and effectively gives customers a free pass to sexually harass hospitality workers,” she said.
During the dinner, one man reportedly told a hostess to rip off her knickers and dance on the table, while auction prizes included a trip to the Windmill strip club in Soho and plastic surgery “to spice up your wife.”
Two children’s hospital charities — Great Ormond Street and Evelina London — have already said they will return their donations from the Presidents Club.
A spokesman for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described the reported behaviour as “appalling.”
He said: “It is an outrageous example of sexual harassment under the guise of a charity event.”
Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi attended but “found the event extremely uncomfortable” and left early, Skills Minister Anne Milton told the Commons.
The club’s chairman David Meller resigned from his post as non-executive director at the Department for Education after the allegations broke.
Labour MP Jess Phillips, who tabled an urgent question, welcomed news that Mr Meller was standing down and asked if it was “appropriate” that Mr Zahawi made an appearance.
She said it is “totally unacceptable” that women were “bought as bait” for rich men.
The event is under investigation by the Charities Commission and Dorchester Hotel management.
The club announced last night that the trustees had decided to shut it down following the backlash from the Financial Times report and would hold no further fundraising dinners.
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