On Friday I met with staff from two JD Wetherspoon pubs in my constituency, The Bright Helm and the Post and Telegraph.
Staff at the pubs are balloting on strike action over pay and working conditions. It’s part of a growing campaign to draw attention to the many people working in the hospitality sector, who are undervalued and underpaid – a campaign being championed by the Bakers, Food, and Allied Workers’ Union (BFAWU).
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.
The outcome of the ballot will be known fairly soon. In the meantime, I will write to Tim Martin from JD Wetherspoon’s, to urge him to act, and to treat staff with the dignity they deserve, and to reward them financially for the massive contribution they make to the company’s profits by paying them a genuine living wage.