Long-standing Glasgow West End restaurant staff face wages reduced to minimum wage claims union

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Workers at a popular West End restaurant are seeing their wages reduced to the minimum after previously being afforded the real living wage, claims Unite the Union’s hospitality section.

Brel, a long-standing Belgian bar and restaurant on Ashton Lane, is facing allegations of dropping staff pay amidst a cost of living crisis - in practical terms this translates in a drop of wages per hour to around 50p to 90p depending on the age of the employee.

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Everywhere in the UK outside of London, the national minimum wage is £10.18 for people under 23 and £10.42 for those over 23, at time of writing. For those aged 18 to 20, Age 18 to 20, who can make up the bulk of hospitality staff, the minimum wage is £7.49 and for those under 1, it’s £5.28.

The Real Living Wage is not enforced by law or government, and is a standard set by an independant community organising company called Citizens UK in 2001.

Bryan Simpson, lead organiser for Unite Hospitality, said:“For such a profitable company to decide (with very little notice given to workers) to revoke their commitment to the real living wage is not just morally reprehensible, it may present a breach of contract and failure to consult with staff.

“Today, we will be meeting with Itison’s Head of Finance, in a last ditch attempt to resolve this dispute. We hope that he make the right decision to invest in the workers who actually make the profits of his company, by overturning this decision and paying them the wages they need to live.”

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Workers at Brel were informed of the change in pay structure back in May, and after consulting with Unite, are now deciding to appeal the decision collectively.

Members of Unite met yesterday with Itison’s head of finance, but as of yet it’s unclear if any agreement has been made.

Brel claims that the change of pay structure was informed by financial forecasts, and was done to secure the future of the restaurant/bar as well as the jobs of their staff. They also claim to have introduced a service charge to compensate for this loss of income for their staff.

The interior of Brel Bar, which is currently seeing the Union appeal a decrease in wagesThe interior of Brel Bar, which is currently seeing the Union appeal a decrease in wages
The interior of Brel Bar, which is currently seeing the Union appeal a decrease in wages

A spokesperson for Brel told the press:“Factually incorrect information has been circulated online including wildly inflated profit figures and suggestions of pay cuts.

“We want to clarify with the facts.

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“The full front of house team at brel, regardless of age, were paid an average of £13.14 per hour between the period of April to June 2023, following a change in pay structure.

“Some 60% of our brel team are under the age of 23 – and we opt to pay the same rate of pay, even though government guidelines would allow us to pay significantly less.

“These figures represent a substantial increase on take-home at the same time last year and are higher than the current rate of Real Living Wage at £10.90.

“As part of the change in pay structure, amidst well-documented cost increases across the supply chain, we elected to move away from the voluntary Real Living Wage in place of a more sustainable model.

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“Extensive planning and forecasting was undertaken before implementing the changes to secure the long-term future of the business, and jobs of our incredible team.

“As part of this, we introduced a service charge, 100% of which is shared between the team.

“This has resulted in a substantial increase in monthly take-home alongside an industry-leading benefits package.

“As this is an ongoing grievance and we are committed to a fair appeal process, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

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