Brighton Wetherspoon’s staff consider strike action over ‘poverty wages’

Posted On 11 Sep 2018 at 2:08 pm


Staff at two of Wetherspoon’s Brighton pubs are being balloted over strike action over what is being described as “poverty” wages, with reports some workers are being forced to sleep in hostels or even tents.

Members of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) working at The Bright Helm in West Street and The Post & Telegraph in North Street were sent postal ballots last Thursday asking them if they are willing to strike for £10 an hour an union recognition.

Some workers say they are forced to sofa surf and rack up debts due to the low wages staff are paid. And Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas said Wetherspoons staff had told her of workers sleeping in hostels or tents to make ends meet.

The move follows BFAWU members striking at McDonald’s in Cambridge, Manchester, Watford and Crayford demanding better working conditions and £10 an hour pay.

Chris Heppell, 29, a kitchen worker at the Post & Telegraph said: “I’ve worked at Wetherspoon’s for four years. In that time I’ve struggled to survive on poverty wages and seen my colleagues’ battle to make ends meet.

“The McStrikers standing up for £10 an hour and a union showed us that if we come together in a union we can make our voices heard. We’ve had enough of being underpaid and undervalued. Now is the time for all hospitality workers to rise up and demand the respect we all deserve.”

The workers were met by Caroline Lucas on Friday. She said: “The high cost of living in Brighton and Hove means that staff struggle to make ends meet, with some that I spoke to falling into debt, sofa-surfing, and suffering the effect of stress and exhaustion on their health.

“In the six months up to the end of January this year, JD Wetherspoon posted a pre-tax profit of £62 million. A 20.6% jump when compared to the same period the previous year.

“There’s no denying Wetherspoon’s success, they’re a feature on many of our high streets, and have managed to prove that there’s a huge market for pubs who remain resolutely unpretentious, and very importantly, affordable.

“Yet with staff now speaking out about their experience working for the company, such as being given shifts at unreasonably short notice, not being left with enough gaps between shifts, having hours cut without explanation, and not being paid a genuine living wage, I’m hopeful that enough noise will be made to make a difference.

“It’s time for the multinational companies who fail to recognise and reward their staff to act.”

Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “We can confirm that Wetherspoon has received notice that the BFAWU intends to hold a ballot for industrial action in two Wetherspoon pubs in Brighton.

“No complaint has been made directly to the company by employees, or by the trade union, in advance of receiving this ballot.

“The matter has now been raised with the area manager. He visits the pubs at least weekly and will investigate the matter further.

“We have reviewed the rates of pay in both pubs.The minimum starting rate for bar associates is £8.05 per hour and for kitchen associates it is £8.25.”

The ballot lasts until next Wednesday, 19 September.

The Bakers’ Union says McDonald’s workers made history by going on strike for the first time in September 2017 at Cambridge and Crayford winning a ten year record pay rise, and then again at five stores on International Workers Day 2018 (01 May 2018).

  1. Rostrum Reply

    So this is mainly about Union recognition………..

  2. johnno Reply

    It’s sad. But poor people could easily afford to live in Portslade. Worthing. Whitehawk. Mile oak. Etc. There is lots of cheap accommodation and lots of worse off people manage here. Brighton and Hove is a rich mans city so sadly if you can’t afford it look somewhere cheaper.

  3. Penguin Reply

    8.05 is normal pay for unskilled job such as kitchen porter or barman. They also get tips. Nurses get 10 £ an hours. How can you compare kitchen porter and nurse? Get qualification, get qualified job, then complaint.

  4. Casper Reply

    Companies should be accountable for workforce exploitation, its criminal and should be treated as so.

    • The honest truth Reply

      They pay above minimum wage.

  5. The honest truth Reply

    Completely ridiculous. It’s not spoons that set the cost of living. They pay slightly below the living wage but well above the nmw. They provide employment opportunties for thousands throughtout the country. I am sorry for the pressures these people are facing but if you are unhappy with lot then chamge your path. Learn a skill, improve yourself. I can promise you the lucas bandwagon wont give a shit. She certainly wont gift a room in one her many properties. All the little independent coffee quiona waitrose frequenting locals certainly wont give a shit either. Its on you to improve your life just like it is me.

    • Bob Reply

      So, you are basically saying that because it isn’t a highly skilled job, that the people doing it should (for whatever reasons, be they students, early retired, mums fitting it in around other committments etc) accept a wage which doesn’t actually support ANY sort of decent lifestyle in an area of high cost for housing?

      What next Scrooge, send them to the workhouse for having the audacity to hope that their employer would have the decency to pay them a wage they can live on rather than rip people off?

      Even working a 40 hour week, these people would only be earning around £20k to £22k a year, far less than the national average salary.

      I for one would be happy (if I ever drank in that hole) to pay an extra 10p a pint if it were to help the poor sods working there.

  6. rupert Reply

    poor people should not live in brighton is too expensive

  7. The honest truth Reply

    Well Bob time to put your money where your mouth is. Boycott supermarkets, pubs, ya fluffy little indenpedent shops and coffee bars. If you feel so strongly about it.

    • Bob Reply

      The article is about Weatherspoons, my reply is about Weatherspoons.

      In fact EVERY company should pay a decent living wage, and not rip off their workers just because it isn’t highly skilled.

      Highly skilled workers should by rights earn more, but those at the bottom shouldn’t be treated as dross and worthless.

  8. Bob Reply

    Weatherspoons staff should be on at least 30k. Then they can rent and eat!!!!

  9. Billy Reply

    Just to put some perspective on this: If you earn as little as £8 an hour then that’s 64 quid for an 8-hour day, or £320 for a 40 hour week. Working in a pub, you may not get a full 8 hour shift, or else you might be asked to do a split shift, sometimes with a late night finish. It can be anti-social work.
    If you lived in Brighton and could get the full week’s pay of £320, then that’s still only £1,280 for a month, less deductions.
    If you then have to rent a bedsit, that will cost you £850 per month for somewhere very basic. On top of that £850 you then have council tax, water rates, electricity and gas bills, TV licence etc. There would be nothing left for food.
    So, basically, no-one can afford to live in Brighton and Hove doing that sort of a job unless, as said in the article, you stay with friends or sofa surf, or live three to a room.
    If they did up the pay to £10 an hour then a 40 hour week might get you nearer to £400, less tax and other deductions etc. But I’m guessing most pub workers won’t get offered 40 hours in a full working week anyway.

  10. Bob is clearly an idiot Reply

    Bob, you clearly have no clue and are talking complete rubbish. What a complete muppet! I am happy to pay a fair wage to anyone but if you think working in a spoons kitchen is worth £30k a year then you need a reality check. The problem is not the companies but the living costs in B&H and London. House prices, rent prices living costs.

  11. Sean H Reply

    I agree with you in principle Bob and im sure the bar and kitchen workers would bite* your hand off for £20k a year…. in reality £320 is £16640 yearly before Tax and NI!

    Its about time companies like Wetherspoons started paying people properly and stop hiding behind minimum and living wages.

    ‘The honest truth’ your view is typical if not unsurprisingly blinkered.

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