Boycotting Spoons is actually the opposite of helpful. Sincerely, Spoons staff
‘If anything it would leave us with the gammons’
With pubs expected to reopen in just over a week’s time, all eyes are on how Wetherspoons, the cheapest dispenser of pints in the UK, will handle the inevitable flock of customers. It’s no secret boss Tim Martin divides opinion, what with his rampant Brexit support and his controversial comments about staff taking jobs in supermarkets. People have always been fairly critical of Spoons’ business practices for various reasons and now there’s talk of a boycott when it reopens, supposedly in the name of workers who’ve allegedly been fucked over by the company’s approach to lockdown.
Except, staff argue, a lot of the rationale behind a boycott is based on misinformation and boycotting Spoons won’t actually do anything to harm the company or influence its higher-ups, instead, it’s the staff themselves who would suffer reduced hours and cut shifts.
Spoonstrike, a campaign to discourage a boycott set up by Spoons employees, told The Tab: “Spoonstrike is not supporting the proposed boycott of Wetherspoons pubs as it will harm us workers at the bottom before it harms Tim Martin and his ilk. When you don’t go to our pubs, associates like myself have their hours slashed to the bone which can dramatically affect pay by even half.
“Whilst we do understand the anger people have towards the company and their treatment of employees throughout this crisis, we ask that you use that anger in ways that can actually support the workers you wanted to boycott for.”
The Tab also spoke to several other Spoons employees about their thoughts on a potential boycott. This is what they had to say:
‘If anything it would leave us with the gammons’
Essentially, I think a lot of people are kinda one way or the other, from the perspective of someone who’s worked for the company, the amount of uncertainty at the beginning of lockdown caused a lot of anxiety. As far as boycotting the business, I know it would have an immediate bad effect on my job but I can’t help but support it because of how badly Tim Martin and the company dealt with things.
If anything it would leave us with the gammons. I enjoy how many young people come in but they’re the ones concerned about boycotting, so it could make my workplace a lot less fun, plus bonuses etc will be a bit harder to achieve.
‘I don’t see many people actually boycotting Spoons’
I think it’s a terrible idea, it’s not Tim that would be affected, it’s us, the staff. We would end up on reduced hours, or even potential job losses or pub closures. Most people are just believing what they’ve heard or seen. We were paid from the start, Tim just said that money would be tight, he also said he’d understand if we worked at a supermarket to help them when they had high demand and also so that we could get some more income.
I don’t see many people actually boycotting Spoons though, too many people love it there. They love the cheap drinks, cheap food and the atmosphere. In my eyes, it’s only the older generation that will potentially boycott.
‘The long and short of it is, people will find other bars to drink in’
I’m a manager in Spoons and if people were to boycott Spoons, naturally, we’d turn over less revenue. As a result of that revenue not coming in, our higher-ups see we’re not taking in as much money, they cut the hours we’re allowed to use in our scheduling. Fewer hours being allowed to be used just results in people getting less pay. That’s simple math. But what’s not taken into account is the knock-on effect of that. People will still want to drink, but we’ve got less staff in at any time to serve those people, so the staff working work harder for the short time they’re allocated the hours for, and they get hardly anything in their paychecks to show for it. Any normal human being would be pretty pissed with this, and won’t start to care anymore.
They don’t work as hard, they’ll be stressed constantly, leading on from that, they’ll no doubt be spoken to by managers about their decline in performance. This adds to the struggles of the associates. Then we go into the management side, we still have standards we have to maintain across our pubs. Less money coming in means we get fewer people to rota onto our shifts, so we have to work harder to maintain said standards as well as do the jobs we could normally assign to associates. We’re not superhuman (as much as some of us like to think we are) and more often than not we won’t be able to get it all done properly. When we’ll get internal inspections, we’ll get lower scores, which then results in fewer bonus payouts. Not to mention constant reminders from head offices about what we’re doing wrong, and in time it’ll all just wear people out. The long and short of it is, people will find other bars to drink in, and it will be a long, painful downward spiral for the Wetherspoons staff who lose out on income and eventually their jobs.
‘A cheap pint will bring anyone to Wetherspoons, boycott or not‘
To be honest, I think it’s mostly all talk. I’ve only been working there for two years and I think I’ve seen about three or four boycotts appear. A cheap pint will bring anyone to Wetherspoons, boycott or not. If a boycott is successful, it won’t even touch Tim Martin. If a pub is unable to make a profit, I imagine they’ll cut staff hours. The boycott will hurt the staff more than the higher-ups in my opinion. I also think it’s important to realise that Wetherspoons staff aren’t actually treated badly, we get free food on shifts, breaks on shifts over four hours long, bonuses, decent wages (especially after midnight), staff discounts, etc. For young people, it’s actually pretty solid. Although I thought that the way the company handled the situation to begin got massively lost in translation. We didn’t get sacked, we also didn’t miss a furlough payment. Overall, I think that the #boycottspoons movement is pretty futile because there isn’t really an issue to begin with and those who care are dramatically outnumbered by those who don’t.
‘The people organising the boycott have too much time on their hands and just want likes and retweets’
‘Why not reach out to workers, encourage them to collectivise through unions?’
Well, I understand the anger and motivation from people, but how is boycotting and throwing these workers (mainly youth) under the bus going to help? When COVID-19 kicked off, over 30,000 hospitality workers [in other companies] were sacked with absolutely nothing. We’re facing the biggest and deepest recession in over 300 years, and more than ever the backbone of our economy needs our support. The ill-treatment of hospitality workers [not in Weatherspoons] isn’t a new thing. Many pubs and restraints will go bust there’s no doubt about it, and if there’s a second wave the situation for hospitality is pretty dire tbh. Why not reach out to workers, encourage them to collectivise through unions to take on bosses and improve their situation? That’s where people’s anger should be, not by boycotting and making the situation worse. This isn’t just unique to hospitality though, workers need to understand the true strength of their power if they collectivise.
‘Social distancing will be better at Spoons anyway’
I work match nights and I can’t imagine football fans organising en mass to boycott the place they usually go to? Idk does that make sense? Maybe with young people, yes. Regulars, I doubt it. People can’t always afford to go to independent places. Also, another thing I realised is that Spoons have had the apps for ages, we’re already trained in using that for food and drinks so like people might think social distancing will be better there given that.
‘It’s the staff that will be hurt if a boycott takes place’
To be honest the majority of Spoons staff are starting to get really worried about this boycott idea. It’s the staff that will be hurt if a boycott takes place if our sales drop and such and we can’t stay open. Tim’s still got millions, hasn’t he? So the boycott will only hurt ordinary working people. There is so much disinformation out there too at the moment. So many people saying we were sacked when we weren’t.
It’s just frustrating that some people think taking the moral high ground here and boycotting is the best way forward when it’s not. Spoons pays better than any pub I’ve worked in, and most of the management and pub teams are like families. I met my best friend working for Spoons and my partner and it’s just not as bad as what people make out.
‘It will damage our pocket more than Tim Martin’s’
I don’t feel like I’d receive much more compassion working for any other company, Tesco being a good example. Regardless, I need my job and this is a good job. This the first job I’ve had that I enjoy, where I’m respected and treated well by my managers. The boycott makes me fear my job, more than I was scared of not being paid by Wetherspoons at the beginning of lockdown. As I’ve said, it will damage our pocket before it damages Tim Martin’s. If people start boycotting our pubs, we might be let go. I work in one of our smaller pubs and I’ve only been there since December, I don’t feel like my place here is stable if a boycott were to happen.
A spokesperson for Wetherspoons told The Tab: “We are aware of this. It’s interesting to note that some members of staff – a tiny majority – who go under the name Spoon Strike have said ‘please don’t boycott Wetherspoons’. They’re absolutely right. It’s got to the point where Owen Jones, who spends a lot of time slagging us off is now saying ‘do not boycott Wetherspoons’. It’s a vicious circle of stupidity, basically.”
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