JDW boss hits back at Guardian journalist

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

Chair's viewpoint: JDW boss Tim Martin has given a written response to an article in The Guardian
Chair's viewpoint: JDW boss Tim Martin has given a written response to an article in The Guardian
JD Wetherspoon (JDW) founder Tim Martin has lambasted claims made by a journalist Owen Jones from The Guardian, who criticised the wages the pub group pays.

Owen Jones met with Martin at JDW pub the Last Post in Southend-on-Sea in Essex where Martin was hosting a Brexit talk.

Jones said: “The truth is, you are yourself, part of the elite, you’re a very wealthy man. Many of your workers are on poverty wages.”

Martin replied: “This is a silly conversation.”

Jones said: “It isn’t a silly conversation. They are being paid £8.05 an hour or something, You can’t live off £8.05 an hour, surely you could give them the [national] living wage?”

Martin asked if Jones had checked that figures before Jones questioned the JDW boss on how much his bar staff are paid.

The JDW founder hit back at the journalist, criticising him for “constantly interrupting him” and then hailed the conversation as a “childish interview” before claiming the reason Jones was interrupting was the beer he was drinking.

In a written response to Jones’s comments, Martin has claimed the journalist misrepresented JDW’s pay and employment practices.

Martin added: “On average, JDW pays 15.8% over the statutory minimum wage. JDW pays 5.5% more than the national living wage, which applies to those over the age of 25.

“JDW has also abolished ‘youth rates’, meaning 18 to 24-year-olds are paid the same starting rate as those over 25. Jones didn’t get the figures right and made critical comments, which aren’t justified.”

The pub group boss outlined its bonus and share scheme for its employees and how this ranks when compared to other large businesses.

Share scheme

Martin said: “Jones’s video left out a very important fact: JDW pays, as I told him, more than 50% of its profits (over £40m in 2018) as a bonus and free shares, to people who work in the company. More than 80% of the bonus goes to people who work in the pubs.

“We pay a higher percentage of profits, as a bonus, than any other substantial company of which we are aware, other than perhaps John Lewis.”

“JDW has also adopted a share scheme for all employees, which was introduced by the last Labour government, in about 2004.

“We now have more than 10,000 employees who have been allocated shares in the company. On average, employees have received 350 shares, worth about £4,000.”

He also mentioned the contracts offered to JDW staff along with the apprenticeship scheme the company has in place.

Martin added: “Looking at JDW’s employment practices overall, 93% of our staff now have a guaranteed minimum hours' contract.

“This has been a very popular move and we believe this is a greater percentage than any other substantial pub company.

“We have also got a very good apprenticeship scheme, with about 1,000 employees taking part.”

The JDW founder highlighted an impressive length of service of a number of his staff and how this is unusual in the hospitality trade.

Martin said: “Around 10 people per pub have worked for the company for more than five years. We have got an average of three people per pub who have worked for us for more than 10 years. In the pub world, when there are a lot of students, part-time workers and high staff turnover, this says something about the company.

“We try to encourage people to stay with us for a long time and many do. We have also got very good connections with Leeds Beckett University (previously Leeds Metropolitan University) and several hundred people have got degrees or diplomas while working for the company."

Top employer

He added: “These factors have contributed to JDW being named as a UK Top Employer 2019, marking 16 consecutive years of recognition by the Top Employers Institute, in association with The Guardian​.

“We don’t believe The Guardian ​or the Top Employers Institute would put their name to something if JDW wasn’t regarded as a reputable employer.”

When it came to tax, Martin also laid out the amount of tax the company pays to the Government through various levies.

He said: “One point I made to Jones that he left out of his video relates to tax. JDW pays a huge amount of tax – 43% of our sales.

“For every pint that goes over the bar – 43% of that sale goes to the Government through one tax or another. These taxes include VAT, alcohol duty, climate change levies and so on.

“In fact, JDW pays just about 1,000th of all the taxes paid in the UK. In other words, you only need just over 1,000 companies like JDW and no one else has to pay any tax whatsoever. That amounts to almost £10 of tax to £1 of profits.

“Not only do we, thanks to the hard work of our employees, restore buildings and generate a lot of jobs, but we are also a big contributor to Government finances.”

Lastly, Martin went on to how JDW scores on job review site Glassdoor and compared it to other pub companies.

“A website a lot of people look at is Glassdoor. Employees use Glassdoor to anonymously rate where they work. JDW does OK on this site, rated 3.3 out of a possible five,” he said.

“Some of our competitors are around 2.5, while Fuller’s, a very good pub company, is slightly ahead of us on 3.5.

“We are also rated almost exactly the same as The Guardian​. We are sure The Guardian ​is a good employer and does its best, but may not be perfect. However, we are sure The Guardian ​is trying to improve and so is JDW.”

Related topics: JD Wetherspoon

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