Media Zoo: The Child Labour “specialists” whose senior staff used to work for the BBC’s consumer programme Watchdog.

It Looks like Ineos, the chemicals company controlled by billionaire hedge fund owner, Jim Ratcliffe (seemingly from a “floating palace”), has hired crisis PR people to handle the dispute at the Grangemouth oil refinery.

As a company, Media Zoo seems as oleaginous as the oil in the refinery pipes. The Managing Director Rachel Pendered boasts of being former “Lead Producer Consumer Investigations” at the BBC. As the Unite press release below highlights, in her new life of Gamekeeper turned Poacher, Ms Pendered leads a firm who proclaim to be have “extensive experience of dealing with crisis situations including industrial disputes, fatal accidents, profit warnings, child labour, product failures, customer service issues, redundancies and restructuring.”

I’m sure Ms Pendered is pulling in good money for moving in such esteemed circles. Her former colleagues at Watchdog will be proud of her success, I am sure. Ms Pendered claims that when at the BBC she “headed up a small team looking into consumer investigations for one off documentaries under the Watchdog or Rogue Traders titles. These included investigations into a number of high profile con artists and large scale scams. One particular investigation resulted in thousands of victims receiving compensation.”

As 1400 workers at the Grangemouth refinery battle to save their pension fund from the axe of the powerful Mr Ratcliffe on his “floating palace”, I hope Ms Pendered pauses to ponder her new life in the world of PR.

 

That Unite Press Release:

 

Unite News Release

For immediate release: 22 October  2013
Child labour PR specialists help Ineos swindle Scottish workers
 
Ineos, the company that has forced Scotland’s biggest industrial site into extreme shutdown and announced plans to cut the wages, jobs and pensions of all its workers, is using a public relations firm specialising in protecting companies hit by child labour accusations.
Media Zoo is a London-based PR firm which advertises itself as having `extensive experience of dealing with crisis situations including industrial disputes, fatal accidents, profit warnings, child labour, product failures, customer service issues, redundancies and restructuring.’
The firm has been running what the Unite union described as a `campaign of fear‘ designed to terrify the 1,400 strong workforce into believing that the site is on the verge of collapse, despite a buoyant energy market, in order to force through swingeing cuts to their pay, jobs and pensions.
Unite is warning the PR firm, that by enthusiastically engaging with a management team that has taken such a ruthless approach to its workforce and Scottish energy supplies, it risks serious reputational damage.
The PR firm’s claims to be `renowned as a leading crisis comms agency’ with a specialism in ‘industrial relations’ confirms Unite’s suspicions that Ineos has sought to target a convenor at the plant, Stephen Deans, in a deliberate effort to undermine the workforce’s faith in their union and so force them into accepting inferior working conditions.
Ineos’ group communications manager has said “We look to Media Zoo to thoroughly prepare our spokespeople.”
Pat Rafferty, Unite Scottish secretary, said: “Employing Media Zoo, a PR agency that helps businesses shrug off allegations of child labour and celebrates its skills in redundancies and restructuring, which is little more than PR shorthand for grinding down decent working men and women, shows that Ineos has a determined strategy to spin its way through its efforts, waging a campaign of fear to make this workforce pay for its profits.   
“But Media Zoo, should not be celebrating this contract.  By working with such a ruthless company, they could face reputational damage themselves as a result, particularly in light of the company’s strange accounts, and claims to financial distress that are in direct contradiction to the 56 per cent jump in operating profits last year. Scottish finance minister, John Swinney this morning even said that the company’s claims of being financially ‘distressed’ were inappropriate given Ineos’ business strength.
“Opinion formers ought to think very carefully about the propaganda they receive on behalf of Ineos as neither the intention nor the content comes with any integrity.
“Media Zoo ought to be thoroughly ashamed.  It is colluding in the ruination of a vital national asset, the skilled jobs that support it, and the community that depends on it.  The PR industry is seriously damaged by the existence of companies that tout for business on such an immoral basis.”
Unite pointed to recent claims made by the company as evidence of its strategy to misrepresent events including claims that the business was in `financial distress’ when an independent review of the accounts revealed that sales in the last year increased by 50 per cent, gross profits grew by a margin of 20 per cent and the operating profit grew by 56 per cent.
ENDS
For more information contact the Unite press office on 0203 371 2065
Notes to editors:
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey

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