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12.05.2022 / Press releases /

Brighton bar staff vote on strike action over pay and conditions, and sue their employer for alleged harassment, sexism and transphobia

  • Bar staff at St James’ Tavern (SJT) in central Brighton, who are United Voices of the World (UVW) members, are being balloted in May for strike action over pay and working conditions 
  • The workers are demanding an end to zero-hours contracts, a minimum pay increase to £11.50 for all staff as well as a full sick pay scheme including cover for Covid-19-related sickness absences, which they don’t currently enjoy 
  • Some of the workers are suing SJT for alleged harassment and discrimination, including allegations of transphobia, sexism and anti-Semitism 

Bar staff at the emblematic St James’ Tavern (SJT) in central Brighton are being balloted in May for strike action over pay and working conditions. They are also suing their employer for alleged harassment and discrimination.  

The determined group of workers and United Voices of the World (UVW) members claim they have been subjected to mistreatment for a long time, alongside poor working conditions. The situation was so dire that many felt compelled to quit their jobs and some of those remaining have second jobs due to their low wages. 

The young team have had enough of low wages and what they claim are increasingly aggressive outbursts from the landlords. 

Some of those being balloted are taking their employers to tribunal over alleged harassment, including allegations of sexism, homophobia, transphobia, disability discrimination, as well as anti-Semitic comments. 

The legal claim also addresses the failure to implement statutory requirements such as providing the workers with written contracts and paying them on a set date. 

The workers are demanding an end to zero-hours contracts, minimum pay of £11.50 for all staff; a full sick pay scheme to all bar staff which includes cover for Covid-19-related sickness absences, rather than the basic Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) they’ve endured during the pandemic; and no cuts to staff hours. They also want a security response team on site at all times as well as voluntary recognition of UVW as SJT workers’ trade union. 

SJT is leased from Stonegate Group, the largest pub company in the UK, to the current owners. Stonegate has been contacted but they claim not to have the power to make changes at SJT. They seem to be washing their hands of all responsibility towards the workers, claiming the leaseholders, Zakaria Abedi and Victoria Bennett, are the decision makers with regards to staff pay.  

The pub is located on St James’ Street, in the center of Brighton, known for being the location of most of Brighton’s queer spaces. 

The balloting closes on 23 May 2022. 

Jake Marvin – St James’ Tavern, bar manager and UVW member: 
 
“We are striking for the basic right to respect in the workplace, for an end to exploitative zero-hour contracts, and against the refusal to provide our basic statutory rights. We as workers at St James’ Tavern have felt consistently undermined, the physical and emotional welfare of the staff as a whole feels entirely neglected.” 

Tris Houseman, St James’ Tavern, bartender and UVW member: 
 
“Feeling undervalued and disrespected by people you are generating money for, money that is barely seen by us, feels so humiliating and degrading on such a personal level. For me and my friends and fellow workers at St James’ Tavern, for the bare minimum conditions and respect at work, that is why I am striking.”

Kate Flood, UVW trade union organiser:

“Despite working hard to ensure everyone at the St James’ Tavern was safe throughout the pandemic, and the post-lockdown, these workers have been thanked with low wages, a refusal to provide security services to protect staff, and shamefully inadequate sick pay, contracts, and terms and conditions. Fighting back against their poor working conditions by taking strike action, and refusing to accept alleged harassment and discrimination, these young workers are setting the stage for change across an under-unionised, under-appreciated hospitality sector, and hitting back at the idea that poor conditions and mistreatment are ‘just part of the job’. For this, the workers at St James’ Tavern need and deserve our full solidarity.” 

Petros Elia, UVW general secretary:  

“Pub worker strikes are very rare to see and are much needed to overcome the low wages and poor treatment that ravage the sector. That’s why this strike is of paramount importance not just for these amazing workers but for all hospitality workers. And we’re calling on the movement to back them because a win for them is a win for all.” 

For further information contact the UVW communications team. 

E-mail: comms@uvwunion.org.uk 

Cristina: 07984 462405 

Isabel: 07706987443  

Jim: 07749 765264 

Notes for editors: 

UVW is an anti-racist, member-led, direct action, campaigning trade union and we exist to support and empower the most vulnerable groups of precarious, low-paid and predominantly Black, brown and migrant workers in the UK. We fight the bosses through direct action on the streets and through the courts and demand that all members receive at least the London Living Wage, full pay, sick pay, dignity, equality and respect. 

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