Pay Your Staff: Disgusted locals send Spoons a message

Pay Your Staff: The Postal Order pub underwent some dramatic redecorating on Tuesday night

No one would be foolish enough to suggest that Wetherspoons’ climbdown yesterday over paying their workers was prompted by it, but some people in Crystal Palace made what they think of the odious Tim Martin plain on Tuesday night as they daubed his pub on the Triangle with a couple of direct messages.

Martin’s influence on this nation’s life over the past four years has been disproportionate to his place in society, and the public outcry this week was massive when the multi-millionaire pub chain owner declared that he would not be paying his staff for the duration of the coronavirus lockdown. Instead, he suggested helpfully, they should seek work as shelf-stackers with local supermarkets. Such a nice chap.

Martin, of course, had argued against any lockdown at all, arguing that there was some kind of Blitz spirit that could be engendered in pubs – his pubs, of course – that would see off the coronavirus. There is more than a smidgeon of suspicion that the Brexit buffoons in the government might have delayed the lockdown by a day or so because of lobbying from vested business interests such as Martin.

Brexit buffoon: Tim Martin

And when Martin did perform a U-turn over paying his staff their wages, it came only after some deal was done with government so that the tax-payers will foot the bill for 80 per cent of Wetherspoons staff wages.

The public reaction against some businesses after the covid-19 quarantine period is over will be interesting to observe, with boycotts already being called for against ‘Spoons and Sports Direct, where owner Mike Ashley tried to keep his stores open and claim that his sports shop staff were somehow “essential workers” in the midst of the pandemic emergency.

In Croydon, there have been reports that – despite government advice that most construction sites must observe the lockdown – the council-owned, loss-making house-builder Brick by Brick was continuing work even yesterday, with questions over whether workers were properly observing the physical distancing rules.

But it is ‘Spoons that has attracted most public anger.

People realise that this is the toughest of times for business, but they have responded with widespread disgust at the “I’m alright Jack” attitudes of some bosses, and the disparity between the huge wealth of the business owners and the low-paid staff on whose backs the profits are made.

Wetherspoons’ turnover was £1.8billion last year, and Martin, as founder and chief exec, has accumulated a personal fortune approaching £500million. Most of the pub chain’s staff are on minimum wage, and even with the government package they will have to wait until May to get furlough support.

The MPs’ letter to Tim Martin

Clive Lewis, the Labour MP for Norwich, yesterday tweeted his disgust at Martin’s conduct: “The lack of basic humanity from the owner of JD Wetherspoon must call into question the kind of society and economy we have created. One where exploitative practices are rewarded with £millions whilst frontline nurses and carers scrape by for a living.”

Lewis was among the signatories of the letter to Martin from parliamentarians – along with Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Mhairi Black of the SNP, Stephen Kinnock and Margaret Hodge, though none of Croydon’s three MPs – which called for fair treatment of Wetherspoons’ staff.

“You employ 40,000 wonderful workers whose skills, hard work and enthusiasm are cherished by the country. They have also generated record profits for your company,” the letter said.

“However, Wetherspoons has fallen short in supporting these workers at a time of crisis. Allowing thousands of people to go penniless for a prolonged period of time is disgraceful.”

The Brexit Arms yesterday. What kind of infestation might Rentokil be having to deal with?

The letter also called on Martin to ensure he paid all the staff’s bonuses in full, and that he should use his own personal wealth to make up the shortfall in pay between the 80 per cent provided by the government and the full amount. “Losing 20 per cent for your already low-paid staff will push some into real hardship,” the letter said.

Meanwhile, back at The Postal Order – or The Brexit Arms, as some know it on the Crystal Palace Triangle – there was more activity later yesterday, when a Rentokil van pulled up outside.

Perhaps Martin is not the only rat sniffing around the ‘Spoons?

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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6 Responses to Pay Your Staff: Disgusted locals send Spoons a message

  1. Hopefully the Rentokill van was there to deal with the biggest rat of the lot, the unlovely Tim? One can only hope!

  2. To be fair, a Rentokil contract is pretty standard for premises selling food.

  3. Martin Evans says:

    Methinks Mr Martin doth imbibe a little too much of his own fermented brews these days? Perhaps he should secure a large advance on the oft remarked ‘Brexit bonanza’ that he foresees in his crystal balls, to reward his loyal staff in these times of hardship. Failing that, perhaps his customers might consider voting with their feet, and explore other local ale houses in protest.

  4. Lewis White says:

    Great idea above from Martin Evans, which triggers the thought that all supermarket staff, front-line health workers, police and emergency workers in daily contact with the public , whether indoors or on the street, should be given a wages supplement every week while the emergency lasts, by the state to recognise their exposure to covid 19 risks. They deserve our gratitude and praise, and some monetary recompense as recognition for the stress they must all be experiencing as a result of their very close proximity to the public.

  5. Lewis White says:

    Apologies to workers in farming, fishing and horticulture, lorry drivers, bus and train drivers, food and drink manufacturing and preparation, pharmaceuticals and pharmacies, warehouse workers, protective clothing makers, maintenance workers and the local delivery people working for the supermarkets, Ocado, milk distribution and others who are working so hard to supply the nation with food , drink.. You also all deserve our thanks, a bonus, and a Medal when it’s all over, from a Grateful nation.

    Sorry–I have missed many others too.

    One of the real lessons of covid 19 is that Society does exist– and depends on a huge number of hard working and caring individuals and groups. It can all go, very quickly. We are mortal. We need each other. Or we die.

  6. Lewis White says:

    And we need the people who keep us in touch–the posties, and telecoms and IT workers, and the people who take our rubbish and recycling away. They all need our deepest thanks.

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