However, my indignation was magnified a million times by the fact that those with any sort of axe to grind swiftly emerged from the woodwork to accuse my firm of exploitation and riding roughshod over the rights of poorly-paid workers.That was one of the worst things about this whole nightmare episode, as anyone who knows me, knows Pimlico operates on an ethos of family values and goes the extra mile for its people. Those companies which exploit its workers don’t offer a subsidised staff canteen, an on-site gym, a masseuse, morning and afternoon breaks and regular staff events, including a lavish Christmas party. Instead, lazy and ill-informed critics jumped on the bandwagon and lumped Pimlico Plumbers in with the very worst excesses of the gig economy. This case was as much about the gig economy as the Lorraine Kelly ruling last week when she won a row over a £1.2m tax bill. HMRC had argued the TV presenter was an ITV employee but she appealed and successfully argued she was self-employed. From the moment I set up Pimlico in 1979 I was determined it would operate to the highest standards possible – setting the company apart from the many cowboy outfits which, at the time, were giving the trade a bad name. That’s why I introduced a transparent pricing structure, insisted my people were well-turned out and wore smart uniforms and, above all, were polite, friendly and delivered excellent service. For a while, the good reputation gained through 40 years of hard work seemed to be unravelling as we were compared to every two-bit taxi firm, food delivery service, and courier company.
A highly-skilled plumber can get work and be very well paid for it, pretty much anywhere. Mr Smith chose Pimlico because we did the leg work to give him the jobs that earned him a fortune. This is a long way from the poor low-paid workers in the real gig economy.These false and vicious accusations not only hurt me personally, but I believe damaged the hard-earned good name of my firm. Mr Smith’s claims have already cost this firm hundreds of thousands of pounds and after the tribunal’s decision, I instructed my solicitors to seek costs from him. If granted, these will be donated to charity. The message I wish to send out today is that sometimes people must have the courage in their beliefs to fight injustice and I hope this sends a strong message to those who have criticised Pimlico in the past that it has done nothing wrong. No-one wants to see the rights of any worker trampled over, but the same applies to SMEs, which are the backbone of this country. Their rights must also be vigorously defended.
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