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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Athena Stavrou

Beer giant Brewdog backtracks on real living wage for employees

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Craft beer giant Brewdog has come under fire after announcing it would be backtracking on its real living wage pledge.

The UK’s biggest craft beer brewer is facing anger from its employees after confirming new staff members would be hired at the statutory minimum wage rate rather than the higher voluntary rate set by the Living Wage Foundation that are paid at present.

The company also said in its letter to staff, which was published by the trade union Unite on Wednesday, that they would be freezing pay for bar staff in London amid soaring costs of living in the capital.

The union called the move “outrageous”, while campaign group Punks with Purpose - which was founded by former Brewdog staff - said the company scrapping the wage pledge “proves that there is no principle too dearly held for them to abandon”.

From 3 January, new staff are to be hired at a lowered rate of £10.42 compared to the current £10.90 offered.

From April, a new legal minimum being introduced will increase pay for workers outside London to £11.44 an hour. This is below the new real living wage of £12 an hour that accredited employers pledge to pay.

In London, pay will be frozen at the current £11.95 an hour offered which is well below the London real living wage to be introduced in April.

BrewDog blamed the cuts on the need to reduce spending to get the business “back to profitability” in a tough market.

It said in its letter to staff: “Even with this strong performance over Christmas, as a wider business there is no hiding from the fact that in 2023 we made a trading loss, and despite many efforts in the past 12 months to reduce our spending we still need to find more ways to get this business back to profitability and the financial stability that is needed.

“Inevitably, this does mean making some hard decisions.”

The decision comes just a week after CEO James Watt, 40, posted on LinkedIn announcing an upcoming movie about the beer brand.

He also posted a collection of pictures on Instagram from his luxury getaway in the Maldives with his girlfriend, Made in Chelsea star Georgia Toffolo, just six weeks ago.

Trade union Unite highlighted the upcoming film, asking: “We wonder whether this will feature in the new film about the company?”

The businessman repsonded to the uproar on social media last night explaining: “We remain fully committed to investing in our people, putting together packages which are well ahead of our competitors whilst doing all we can to drive exceptional customer experiences and long-term shareholder value for our community of over 220,000 Equity Punks.”

It is not the first time the Scottish beer brand - most famous for their Punk IPA brew - have landed in hot water over staff controversies.

They have also been criticised for dropping their scheme in which 50% of a bar’s profits were shared with staff, which was changed to a 10% profit share and £1 per hour bonus for good customer service following a staff vote last year.

The company have also been criticised for dropping their scheme in which 50% of a bar’s profits were shared with staff

Punks with Purpose said: “BrewDog management’s decision to revoke a long-standing commitment to the real @LivingWageUK proves that there is no principle too dearly held for them to abandon. The real Living Wage has been a cornerstone of BrewDog’s public identity for years.

“This real-terms pay cut for hard-working front line staff is directly opposed to BrewDog’s previous claim that ‘our crew are our most important resource - and giving them fair pay for the work they do is one of our core beliefs.’

“Furthermore, by adopting the government’s ambiguous “national living wage” terminology, it could be construed that BD are attempting to disguise their move away from the real Living Wage. We stand in solidarity with BrewDog’s bar staff, who deserve better.”

A BrewDog spokesperson said: “As a result of the changes we’re making – and despite unprecedented challenges in the hospitality sector – our staff outside London will be getting a 4.95% increase in base pay, and crew currently working in London will be paid 4.5% above the National Living Wage.

“We have always been fully committed to doing the best we can for our people, and our benefits package is far more generous than the industry average.”

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