Pret to restore staff bonus after workers threaten strike action

But coffee shop chain will no longer pay for break times as sales struggle to recover from the pandemic

Last modified on Thu 12 Aug 2021 13.26 EDT

Pret a Manger has rowed back on plans to slash staff bonuses in a partial U-turn on proposed pay cuts after workers threatened strike action.

However, the coffee shop chain has not reversed a decision to cease paying for break times, so that a worker on an eight-hour shift, including a legally required half-hour break, will still see a pay cut of just over 6% a shift v pre-pandemic levels.

Pret workers, the vast majority of whom earn basic pay of the legal minimum £8.91 an hour, threatened to down tools this week after being told a temporary cut in paid breaks would be made permanent.

A service bonus, linked to performance judged by a mystery shopper, was ditched last summer and reintroduced in April this year at 50p an hour, down from £1 before the pandemic hit. Workers were told last week that change would also be made permanent.

With the town centres which it serves emptied of workers during the pandemic, Pret has been under severe financial pressure. The company ditched its dividend payment to shareholders and in April warned of “material uncertainties” over whether it can continue as a going concern. The pay cuts were part of a cost-saving programme.

But on Thursday, after the planned pay changes prompted an outcry on social media, Pret a Manger boss Pano Christou told staff the mystery shopper bonus was being restored to £1 an hour after taking staff “feedback into consideration”.

“The business is still in recovery but it’s important that we continue to invest in and support our teams however we can. I have spent over 20 years working for Pret and spent a long time working in our shops so know how important the mystery shopper bonus is to everyone and it is something that sets Pret apart from the competition,” he said in an email to workers.

He added: “… unfortunately it’s taking longer than we had hoped to get sales back to what they were before the pandemic, which is why we’ve had to make some difficult decisions about how we reward our hard-working teams.”

A member of staff involved in the strike planned for next month said the new deal was a “good improvement” but they were still weighing up whether to continue with their action as paid breaks had not been restored.

Another worker said they had been moved to consider action as pay was becoming worse just as the work was becoming harder, partly as a result of a subscription service introduced a year ago that enables members to get up to five coffees a day for a monthly £20 fee.

“With the coffee subscription we have more work. More effort. More stress. People never stop going for free coffee, but our conditions as employees are going back instead …

“Now there is not any difference to work between a Pret a Manger and [another coffee shop]. I love my job but we want our conditions to improve or be at least as before.”

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