Socialist Worker

Wetherspoon advertising jobs at less than minimum wage

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2564

The Wetherspoon pub chain is advertising jobs paying less than the minimum wage.

On its website the firm is advertising jobs at as little as £6.08 an hour, below the minimum wage for most people.

The minimum wage stands at £7.05 an hour for people aged 21 to 24. It rises to £7.50 for people aged over 25. Scandalously, it drops as low as £4.05 for people under 18.

Socialist Worker contacted a number of Wetherspoon pubs pretending to apply for work.

One pub manager confirmed that the job advertised was paying under the minimum rate.

“Yes, that’s correct,” replied the manager when asked if the figure advertised on the website was correct.

A manager at another pub said, “That sounds really low” when asked to confirm the pay rate advertised.

Socialist Worker contacted Wetherspoon to confirm their policy. “Wetherspoon pay the national living wage (as a minimum rate) in all pubs,” a spokesperson replied. 

“In the majority of pubs this is paid from 21 years, although some pubs pay from 18 years.”

Demand

When asked about the labour movement’s demand for a £10 an hour minimum wage, the Wetherspoon spokesperson replied, “We don’t wish to comment on Labour policies.”

That hasn’t stopped the chain’s chair Tim Martin from attacking the Tories’ “living wage”, introduced on 1 April 2016. He said it would “threaten the future of many more pubs”.

Yet the firm’s net profits rose from £41 million in the year to July 2014 to £51 million in the year to July 2016. That casts doubt on Martin’s claim that he can’t afford the minimum wage increase.

Elsewhere Mark Greenaway, a celebrity chef in Edinburgh, has been systematically using people on unpaid trial shifts to cover busy periods in his restaurants. That’s the claim from the Better Than Zero campaign.

A spokesperson said Greenaway “is using dozens of unpaid trial shifts per week” and that “desperate young workers” were treated as a “free cleaning service”.

Greenway disputed the claims, saying some people leave after a few hours because “it’s not for them”.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has adopted the £10 an hour minimum wage target—but said at the last election it would only implement it by 2020.

The Living Wage Foundation has set its London ideal pay rate at £9.70 and the outside London rate at £8.45.

That means a £10 an hour rate in 2020 will likely be insufficient to meet the rising cost of living.

Corbyn’s promise is a good start but it needs to go a lot further.

We need a movement strong enough to push for £10 an hour now.


You’re illegally underpaid

Almost one in every five apprentices in Britain are being illegally underpaid.

One recent government survey found that the proportion of apprentices being paid less than the legal minimum wage increased from 15 to 18 percent between 2014 and 2016.

Another survey of over 8,000 16 to 25 year olds found that nearly half had done unpaid internships.

The minimum wage for apprentices is £3.50 an hour for the first year of employment or if the worker is between 16 and 18 years old. It was £3.30 an hour when the government survey was carried out.

Hairdressing apprentices were the most likely group to be paid below the minimum rate—some 47 percent of them were paid below the minimum.

But just because a person is young or in training doesn’t mean they have fewer needs.

The recent Taylor Review said unpaid internships “are an abuse of power by employers and extremely damaging to social mobility”.

But it put forward no solution to the scandal.


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