The landlords of a pub who were accused of “shocking” union-busting have paid over £100,000 in compensation and back-pay to workers who went on strike.
Last year Novara Media reported how the landlords of the Saint James Tavern in Brighton sacked bar workers after they unanimously voted to take strike action for better terms and conditions and a pay increase to £11.50.
After strike dates were announced, workers at the pub found themselves abruptly subjected to disciplinary processes described as “farcical” by the United Voices of the World (UVW) trade union which represents them, or disciplined or suspended on spurious grounds.
Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP for Brighton, Kemptown said that he had called the “out of control” landlord, Zakarai Abedi, to mediate, but Abedi said that he would be “getting rid” of anyone who had taken part in union activity.
When Russell-Moyle told Abedi that the pub workers were entitled to take strike action, he said the landlord replied: “They won’t be working for me if they’ve taken action.”
In October 2022, in a development described by one worker as “poetic irony”, a judge ordered Abedi and fellow landlord Victoria Bennett to continue paying the wages of the workers that they had sacked until an employment tribunal took place.
Following a judicial mediation, in June this year the landlords reached a settlement with workers out of court, paying over £80,000 in compensation.
In addition to settling claims of unfair dismissal and trade union victimisation, the landlords settled an additional harassment and discrimination claim brought by eight workers.
The total amount of compensation and backdated wages that the landlords had to pay came to £113,350, a union source said.
A statement from UVW said: “Had the Saint James Tavern bosses conceded the modest and reasonable demands of the workers – a slight wage increase, a security team on site, a full-pay sick-pay scheme and trade union recognition – they would have accomplished what any good employer should aspire to: a happy workforce and a reputation for good employment practices.
“The bosses could have saved themselves a lot of money in compensation and lawyers fees, the reputational damage to their business, the strike at their doorstep, and the time and energy spent on defending the indefensible: bad employer behaviour.”
Polly Smythe is Novara Media’s labour movement correspondent.
Simon Childs is a commissioning editor and reporter for Novara Media.