‘Spoons Workers Against Brexit’ said they were “opposed to Brexit in its entirety” and did not wish to see JDW sites distribute materials promoting a ‘no deal’.
Chairman Tim Martin has used his pubs as a canvas for his political arguments – most recently via an ongoing nationwide speaking tour – and some 500,000 beer mats that argue halting EU tariffs on imports would mean lower prices in shops and pubs. He also makes regular appearances on panel discussions about Brexit, which is currently being debated in parliament.
The company prints a Wetherspoon News magazine, which includes a series of pro-Brexit articles collated from other newspapers.
In a petition, the group of employees said Martin was “exploiting his position to promote an extremely damaging no-deal Brexit through pubs up and down the country”.
Leaving the EU without a deal would “drive down our working conditions and living standards even further,” they said.
Freedom of movement
“More or less, any Brexit currently on offer will see an end to freedom of movement and the rights of EU working class people, including many of those who keep Wetherspoon running, to travel freely, and it will almost certainly lead to thousands of EU nationals being refused the right to ‘settled status’ here.”
The group said staff were “marked down for refusing to distribute beer mats, leaflets, magazines or menus that promote Martin’s politics,” and called for a withdrawal of such materials from pubs.
JD Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon told the Metro website that staff were not obligated to distribute the magazines.
He said: “They are entitled to their views. It should be noted that if a member of staff does not wish to put out the magazines, then they don’t have to.
“We have no issue with that. The magazine is more than 100 pages in total and the Brexit pages comprise a small number of those. Wetherspoon News offers articles for and against Brexit.”
Employees said it was hypocritical of Martin to describe those opposed to Brexit as “metropolitan elite” when he has accrued millions, something they said was “in no small part by paying his staff poverty wages”.
Workers said they want to be paid a living wage – something Martin has previously dubbed as not in employees’ interests to implement, following the first strike action at the pubco last year.
Trade union recognition, with the Bakers, Food & Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), is also being sought.
Staff members from two Brighton Wetherspoon branches took strike action in October and called for a £10 per hour wage and union recognition, in a first for the chain.
The petition comes after left-wing pundit Owen Jones interviewed the pubco boss in a video for The Guardian.
Jones tweeted that he had received emails from JDW employees reporting they had had bonuses docked for neglecting ‘floor standards’, which included the placement of pro-Brexit materials.
“If we open our market for oranges, processed coffee, rice, wine, children’s clothes and shoes, and more than 12,000 other products, prices will go down in shops, pubs and restaurants,” Martin said in another recent video.
Conversely, research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggested customers would not see much price benefit from the slashing of tariffs.
It said cutting tariffs would see prices shrink by a maximum of 1.2%, however, it would not offset a 2% increase in prices from the devaluation of the pound immediately after the referendum result.