Jake Sloane, a former employee at the pubco, created a petition to ‘Stop Suicide in the Service Industry’, in which he said poor management and understaffing exacerbated pressure on staff.
He and his colleagues had experienced depression and self-harm after incidents of assault from customers, with the pubco providing little support, he said.
He called for a boycott at his former workplace, a JDW site in Plymouth, and added that the whole sector shared similar problems, which impacted workers’ mental health.
A culture of bullying had contributed to members of staff experiencing suicide attempts and substance abuse issues, Sloane said.
Not worth dying for
Standards at the pub slipped as workers struggled to cope, with mouldy ice machines and food that had been on the floor served to customers, according to the petition.
Sloane added: “It's not worth dying for, for the sake of ensuring food is served in no more than 10 minutes.”
“If we're perfect employees, we’re are still victimised if we are not a ‘favourite’.”
Staff were left with little support after experiencing abuse or assault from customers, he said.
“I have been called every name under the sun, glass bottles have been thrown at us and we've been stalked on social media for not serving someone quick enough,” Sloane said.
Alex McIntyre, who works at one of the Brighton sites that took strike action last year, said he recognised many of the problems mentioned in the petition.
He told The Morning Advertiser: “Our strike was not the be all and end all of the story and clearly we have seen that with this in Plymouth.
“Some of the things he [Sloane] is saying are things that people I work with experience every day.”
More support should be offered to staff, he said.
“We have to deal with abuse daily and I think, as far as what we get at our pub, there is a poster with the Samaritans helpline on it yet there is no direct support when it comes to dealing with it.”
The ‘Spoons’ Strike’ campaigned for a pay rise and union recognition last autumn, marking the first time JDW staff took industrial action.
JDW said its personnel team were all trained in mental health first aid and available to provide guidance to employees.
However, McIntyre and Sloane said they felt the pubco would continue to prioritise profit above staff welfare.
McIntyre added: “It is all to make a profit. It is to have as little staff as you can at the busiest periods, to make the most money. It definitely gets customers angry and people on the bar are on the front line of that.
“People have been spat at, they have had drinks thrown at them. It is something that is just ignored really.”
Opportunity to pave the way
As a pubco with hundreds of sites, JD Wetherspoon is in a position to set a precedence for supporting staff, McIntyre said.
He said: “At the moment, it is very lacklustre and it is not dealing with these things. It has the opportunity to shape what the hospitality industry should be.
“They could be doing a lot and they are not. They have the opportunity to pave the way really – people have just had enough.”
JDW spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “Wetherspoon has robust policies against sexual (or any) harassment. This covers any harassment by employees, customers or other third parties.
“There is a range of resources for employees and managers with regard to mental health.
“We can confirm that the person behind the petition left the company in March 2019.
“At the time of leaving, he raised some concerns relating to his employment that were investigated.
“A follow-up meeting was held with him and he was given the option to return to the company if his new role did not suit him.
“We would be happy to meet with him to see if there are any further matters that we need to address.”