19th January 2024
In June 2021, a group of BrewDog ex-employees came together and told you “the single biggest shared experience of former staff is a residual feeling of fear. Fear to speak out about the atmosphere we were immersed in, and fear of repercussions even after we have left.” Many more felt unable to put their name to that letter, afraid of how you might respond. We are writing to you now to tell you that this fear culture is still alive and well at BrewDog.
In the wake of your decision to withdraw from the real Living Wage from April 2024, both Unite Hospitality and Punks With Purpose have offered support to current workers, and we have discovered that not only are they unhappy with your decision, but they are afraid that they cannot even discuss it without facing repercussions. As it appears no mechanism exists for them to do so in a way that feels safe, we will try to provide one.
We have been told directly by workers that, were they seen to be engaging with a union (or each other) regarding pay, there are some members of bar management who they would expect to retaliate. It was suggested they might reprimand or even dismiss workers under spurious reasoning, or bully workers into resigning. We are reminded of the mass firing of LGBTQ+ workers in Indianapolis, attributed to “performance issues”. Current workers also explained they had no safe way to raise these concerns internally. Some were not aware of the Listening Line and the Employee Representative Group you implemented in 2021. Upon hearing this, we sought to find out whether those platforms were being utilised – but your Transparency Dashboard seems to have disappeared. How strange. Regardless, it’s clear that even the anonymous Listening Line does not feel like a safe way to lodge concerns for worried staff – perhaps unsurprising, after the last “independent third party” you brought in turned out to be sharing confidential information directly with you.
We are drawing attention to this on behalf of your workers, in an attempt to put a spotlight on the intimidation tactics described to us, by them. You have singled out the staff members on the lowest pay – those with the least resources to fight back against this decision. We call on you now – do not prevent them from organising, do not force them out, and do not ignore their union representation. Twenty thousand people have signed a petition which backs this up – a fair few more signatures than the last time.
Now is the time to engage with your team – it costs you nothing to do so – and start to put things right, by engaging with union representatives.
Unite Hospitality and PWP
Anonymous testimony from current staff:
“The argument that this isn’t a real wage cut, and nominal wage cut for new hires, is simply untrue.”
“Benefits do not equal pay.”
“The move comes off as one intended to more smoothly reduce their wage burden after the season over managing the ebbs and flows of trade throughout the year, effectively telling us we are entirely expendable, that expertise and functioning teams do not lead to better managed businesses, and signals they’ll essentially settle in to a hire-fire cycle throught the year to attempt to minimise costs.”
“BrewDog is one of the most morally and ethically fraudulent companies I have ever worked in.”
“Whenever one of their workers voices a concern or grievance that threatens to expose their lack of integrity as a so-called ethical organisation […] the powers that be will often strategically dance around the crux of the issue being highlighted. […] Either that or they completely ignore the query entirely, or blame the economy and the current cost of living crisis on issues concerning our wages, or they compare themselves to other industry leaders and how much more charitable BrewDog is.”
“The management class within this organisation operate so methodically as to run its employees around in circles when we have urgent issues, in an effort to tire us out in an ultimate hope that we drop our queries all together.”
“From my personal opinion, our higher management team are ‘die hard’ BrewDog fans, they admit James can do wrong however they will fight to ensure it stays under the rug and that the staff are not stepping out of line.
We have very little communication between management and staff and I think we’re all scared of being pulled into a one on one with managers who will just sit, scream and gaslight you. They’ve shown us in recent months that they’re willing to fire and replace everyone.
The problem isn’t just the pay though – that’s the main public facing issue but the retaliation we may possibly face from managers will ‘have nothing to do with that’. (cont.)
“I’ve previously experienced a manager trying to coerce me and bully me into quitting BrewDog and watched my teammates be fired over nothing because they upset the wrong manager.
James Watt doesn’t have to do any of the dirty work when the managers are so happy to find any reason or excuse to get rid of someone and sadly that wouldn’t even be worth posting about. Any one of us staff could be let go tomorrow for something relating to bad workflow and we wouldn’t have any argument or proof it had any correlation to us being angry about our pay.”