MA at 225

‘Staff, staff everywhere, but no one working shifts’

By Ken Wright

- Last updated on GMT

'Ridiculous proposition': Wright (second right) is 'constantly bewildered' by the number of job applicants who refuse to work beyond 11pm
'Ridiculous proposition': Wright (second right) is 'constantly bewildered' by the number of job applicants who refuse to work beyond 11pm
Flexible rostering, zero hours, part time, full time, weekends only, school hours, no late nights... the list of ‘wants’ by staff and trendy working styles in this industry will be the death of us, says Ken Wright, managing director of The Phoenix Artist Club

It’s relatively easy for an average business to accommodate the work-life balance of staff if that business has a 40-hour Monday to Friday week. Publicans, like everyone in hospitality, don’t have that luxury. When everyone posts on social media their ‘back to work, post-Christmas blues’, the eye-rolling of exhausted licensees could start a tsunami. We had little time off.

It’s always the case that those demanding more flexible working practice in society will inhabit a nice office, start at 9am, enjoy an hour’s lunch between coffee breaks and be home in time for the 6pm news. Not for them the worry of who might clean their office or drive the train home. But we must, apparently, be ‘more flexible’.

Also, potential employees – particularly those new to the industry – arrive for interview wearing rose-tinted spectacles, naively presuming that no weekend work will be necessary.

I’ve worked shifts all my life. Until very recently, a bank holiday or Christmas Day was the same as any other day – often spent on night shifts and without a stuffed turkey in sight.

My venue is open 18 hours a day, with a busy kitchen and performance space that needs up to 20 staff – on shift rota – to make it, well, rotate. And therein lies the rub – the key word here being ‘shift’.

We have many applications for work from students graduating from theatre colleges and schools, attracted by our eclectic clientele and reputation for supporting the arts.

I am constantly bewildered at the thought process of those graduates seeking work behind or in front of a busy bar, open seven days a week until 3am, who consider being here beyond 11pm and particularly at the weekend a ridiculous proposition.

Did I miss something? Aren’t theatres across the land open every weekend until very late? What are these great institutions of learning teaching these kids? Kitchen apprentices last a few months before realisation dawns – when all your mates are out enjoying themselves – you’re working so that they can, er, enjoy themselves. Not that any catering college course would install any realistic industry work discipline, ‘day courses’ rather give wholly the wrong impression.

We are in a society where almost 100% of the available working population is fully employed. Our industry struggles to attract quality candidates. To change attitudes, society needs to appreciate and accommodate shift workers – and that starts with training colleges telling it like it is before

Professor Wellfunded catches the 5.15 train home to Orpington.

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