On 19.03.2020 in the morning I was contacted by a Pret employee that Pret wanted to cut all staff hours 25%, down to 16 hours. I was sent the email that Pano Christou sent to all shops and HQ (75B) that morning.
A front-line shop staff member gets a little over minimum wage of £8.65 per hour
+£1 bonus IF the Mystery Shopper is happy (I posted a FULL Mystery Shopper report with the 32 micromanaging questions that Pret tasks Mystery Shoppers to test each shop on every week. If ONE staff member makes a mistake or doesn’t smile enough, the WHOLE shop team is penalized and don’t get the bonus!).
Even if a a staff member receives £8.65 they have to work double and triple for it. Pret has NO choice to pay a little more than minimum wage and give a few perks, as no-one would work at Pret for the backbreaking, micromanaging and stressful work they’re expected to do, often in a bullying environment.
Pret’s turnover on 2019: £710 million
Former CEO Clive Schlee’s BONUS from the JAB Holdings / Reimann purchase in 2018: £30 million
Second richest family in Germany, Reimann via tax-haven Luxembourg JAB Holdings worth €33 BILLION (£28 / $35 billion).
Do the math of £8.65 minus 25% minus hours.
I immediately wrote blog posts and went on Twitter.
The Guardian and other press started publishing and slowly customers and readers started to speak out against Pret’s decision.
What was so vile about this is that Pret started giving free coffees and 50% rebates on food to all NHS staff the day before on 18.03.2020. Pret made a big announcement, did press releases and sent emails to shops boasting about their “charity”.
This typical Pret PR and smokescreen had many speechless and angry.
A day later, after bad press and public outcry Pret reversed the pay-cut until May when they review this again.
This NHS employee is MY NHS hero / heroine!
etc. etc. etc.
What Pret staff say for years:
On 27.03.2020, CEO Pano Christou was interviewed by the Evening Standard and even lied to the Standard, quote: “Last week Christou said immediately that he will pay his staff 100% of their salaries at least until the end of April.”
Immediately? You mean “immediately” after the public outcry and bad press about the 25% cut, huh?!
First email from Pano Christou on 19.03.2020 announcing the pay-cut. I was asked by the Pret staff who sent this email to me as screenshots to not publish the screenshot but write a transcript. The second letter of the pay-cut reversal is as a screenshot, sent by another staff member.
Recap of numbers again:
Front-line Pret staff:
£8.65 p/h (+£1 bonus not guaranteed – no bonus when on holiday/furlough and sick).
This is UNDER £15.000 a year! Subtract 25% AND subtract hours, announced DURING the Coronavirus pandemic AND NHS freebies!
Pret’s turnover 2019:
Former CEO Clive Schlee’s BONUS (not to mention Pano Christou & share holders …)
Reimann / JAB Holdings
€33 BILLION (£28 / $35 billion)
Pano Christou pay-cut email 19.03.2020:
Dear 75B and UK Shops
In moments of crisis we are challenged on our values and it is important we continue to support each other. People are at the heart of Pret. That’s why our biggest priority as we navigate the impact of Coronavirus is to protect our people. Pret is a wonderful company because it is full of amazingly talented, passionate, kind and generous people. I call it my second home after spending 20 years of my life with such wonderful people who have helped to shape me as a leader, father and a human being.
There are many people losing their jobs from other companies, especially in our sector. Our aim is not lose anyone, because we believe that we are all in this together.
Unfortunately we cannot ignore the fact that our sales in the UK have dropped by 75% and we believe this will be our new reality for several weeks. Therefore we have to reduce our costs somehow.
We are prioritising cuts in all areas that don’t impact our people directly, however it’s vital we also address pay. This means we need to ask every single Pret employee to take a 25% reduction in their contracted hours (and therefore pay). I know this is a huge ask and it breaks my heart to have to get to this point. I know it will hit people hard, but if we can achieve this, we can avoid job losses at this time. The Global Leadership Team and Board will be taking bigger cuts
We anticipate that our current reduction in sales will continue for at least 3 months and therefore the reduction in hours and associated pay will need to cover this period. If sales improve before then or we receive any further assistance from the government, nothing would make me happier than to be able to reverse this decision more quickly. I will keep you informed.
It goes without saying that if anyone would like to reduce their hours even further (perhaps for personal reasons) or take any period of unpaid absence or sabbatical (even if they haven’t been as Pret for long) then please let the HR team know.
It is important that every single Manager speaks to every single member of their team by Friday 12 noon (20th March) to explain this. There will be lots of questions and following this note the HR team will be sending a list of actions that need to be taken, a letter that needs to be given to every person, and answers to the questions you and your teams may have.
To help our Pret people at this difficult time, we are setting up a Coronavirus Hardship Fund. More details to follow early next week. If any employee needs assistance due to the reduction in their hours then they must ask us for help and we will do all we can to support.
I am fully aware of the impact this change has on us all and I thank you for your understanding.
Take care of yourself and each other.
After public pressure and bad press:
Second letter of the decision to reverse pay-cut until May:
To all Pret employees:
JOIN A UNION!
And know that even ONE voice / blog / Tweet / email … COUNTS!
Even if things improve or you leave Pret, join a Union! When you stay, Pret will find ways AGAIN to try and cut hours!
These two Unions are very active and the best informed on Pret issues:
Slideshow can be paused
The above slideshow is just a selection, the list goes on in → Pret Staff Complaints.
And extensive accounts of Pret’s systemic bullying behind the facade, also witnessed by customers: Caught in the Act at Pret.
I worked at Pret A Manger and survived systemic workplace bullying during bereavement that involved HR, the top leadership, HQ and even the now “retired” former CEO Clive Schlee. I declined 4 settlement offers if I am silent about my ordeal. But I rather starve and speak out to help others. For an overview of important blog entries of my experience with Pret, please visit “My Ordeal with Pret A Manger”. The little arrow to the right next to each heading will lead directly to the post.
An incomplete list on what other Pret staff say about Pret’s bullying environment: Caught in the Act Bullying at Pret.
I tell my story for the first time verbally in below audio player interview on a podcast by The Adam Paradox, and wrote two articles in the Scottish Left Review.
Thank you for reading/listening.
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