A decision by coffee shop chain Pret a Manger to make temporary cuts to pay permanent has been branded as a “kick in the teeth” for staff.
It comes after the Guardian newspaper reported that employees at the company are considering strike action.
In response to the Covid pandemic last year, staff at Pret were told that they would temporarily not be paid for breaks, and a service bonus, linked to performance judge by a mystery shopper, would be dropped.
The company told workers that the cut to pay for breaks will remain, whilst the bonus, reintroduced in April, would be reduced from £1 an hour to 50p.
In an email to staff on Thursday afternoon, Pret chief executive Pano Christou said that the mystery shopper bonus will be returned to £1 from the start of September.
“We have taken your feedback into consideration, and we’ve reviewed our decision,” he told staff.
“That’s why we will be returning the Mystery Shopper Bonus back to the pre-pandemic level of £1, effective from the start of September.
“The business is still in recovery but it’s important that we continue to invest in and support our teams however we can.
“I have spent over 20 years working for Pret and spent a long time working in our shops so know how important the Mystery shopper bonus is to everyone and it is something that sets Pret apart from the competition.
Pret closed a total of 30 stores in July 2020 as businesses were hit by the financial impact of the pandemic.
The closures included sites at Shandwick Place in Edinburgh and at the Glasgow Fort Shopping Centre.
“This is in no way a reflection of the hard work of our teams, and we’re incredibly grateful for their dedication and commitment.”Pret a Manger spokesperson
The company said that the business continues to trade “significantly” below pre-pandemic levels, but that it would keep changes to benefits under review.
A Pret spokesman told STV News: “Like others in the hospitality industry, the pandemic had a big impact on our business, so last year we adjusted our business model.
“This included a review of all contracts and benefits, after which some changes were made. The business is still trading significantly below pre-pandemic levels, but we continue to review our benefits.
“This is in no way a reflection of the hard work of our teams, and we’re incredibly grateful for their dedication and commitment.
“It’s important to us that we always communicate openly and honestly with our Team Members, which we’ll continue to do over the coming months.”
Unite hospitality organiser Bryan Simpson had urged Pano Christou to reverse the changes made.
“Pret a Manger’s decision to make permanent the removal of paid breaks and a 50% reduction in mystery shopper bonus will see the income of some of our members drop by more than 10%,” he told STV.
“This is a kick in the teeth for the workers who have worked hard to get the brand back on track after the pandemic when they were living on 80% of the minimum wage.
“We call on Pano Christou to do the right thing and reverse these changes to ensure he retains staff during a recruitment crisis.”
Scottish Labour’s economy spokesperson Daniel Johnson also joined calls urging Pret to make the changes, describing the cut as “appalling”.
He said: “There is a real risk that this may just be the tip of the iceberg. Businesses across the country are struggling to rebuild after the pandemic and we need to do all we can to make sure it isn’t staff who pay the price.
“This must act as a wake-up call for both the UK and Scottish Governments. We urgently need a real economic strategy to revitalise our high streets and protect jobs.”