On the Frontlines of Pret A Manger

 

With JAB / Reimann’s takeover of Pret, they are exploding from here on, purchasing sandwich chain rival EAT. with the plans to bow to public demand, turning the 90+ EAT. stores into Veggie Prets. The work environment of Pret will spill over to EAT.

EAT. as an imitation and the most serious competition to Pret is known by Pret staff as being more relaxed and less strict. EAT. has always been a sore in Pret’s sight, so one can imagine the triumph they must feel (all on workers’ backs!). Many Pret staff that I also worked with, especially leaders, left Pret and went to EAT. after they couldn’t handle the harshness of Pret anymore. They said that they rather get paid less and have less stress.

I’m sure current EAT. staff will be taken on more or less. Andrew Walker, CEO of EAT. used to be Pret’s UK Managing Director and has his story of why and how he left Pret …

 

2019-05-22 EAT

Photo: eat.co.uk

After the initial rumor mid May 2019 before the confirmation days later, the slogans are already out there quickly, as Pret A Manger means ready to eat, Twitter is full with “Ready to Eat EAT.” and “Pret swallowing EAT.” posts.

My concern remains regarding employees as I have survived Pret on another matter (my podcast interview at the bottom of this post). Perfect timing that my experience with Pret was also published in the May/June 2019 edition of The Scottish Left Review at the same time the rumors of the EAT. purchase circulated on Twitter.

 

2019-05-22 Preat A Merger

Link

How the leadership structure will be changed with Andrew Walker CEO of EAT and Clive Schlee, Pret’s CEO and their past “issues”, time will tell. But both companies in mid to end of May 2019 aren’t the highest scores from staff reviews on Glassdoor as well as Indeed and other sites. A little over half of EAT. staff and less than half of Pret staff recommend working for their companies on Glassdoor.

 

2019-05-22 EAT Percentage Reviews

versus

2019-05-22 45 staff 55 Clive

Regarding staff reviews of Pret, the below Slideshow at the bottom should make it clear why less than half recommend working at Pret.

 

The Scottish Left Review, a monthly left wing magazine published my story in their May/June 2019 edition.

I copy the full article here with link to the publication. I submitted the text which was slightly edited for grammar as English is my second language. But the text has been written by myself with information given to the magazine on the Pret Union and the I-Hate-Pret-A-Mangerpreth8ers” Facebook group.

 

Full text:

 

On the frontline: crushed by corporate capitalist culture 
Fighting-Back-Logo

 

Late Night Girl’ tells of the bullying behaviour at work she suffered and how she is fighting back.

My story with Pret-A-Manger is very complex and long. Only in hindsight, do I think I understand the extent of what I’ve been through and how systemic the problem of workplace bullying in profit driven companies can be.

I have always worked in the food industry in three different countries. I have worked in a hotel, wine bar, canteen and various restaurants and cafe chains but I have never experienced the stress and discrimination I went through in Pret. Only now, when I have contact with unions (like the BFAWU) and activists, do I realise that this is a growing problem as a result of capitalist globalisation and the accompanying intensification of competition.

Before I worked in Pret, I was an assistant manager (AM) in Caffe Nero. Nero was a lot of stress, but nothing like Pret, and the atmosphere with colleagues and managers was relaxed. I left Nero as Pret paid better. Even as a new team member, I got paid more than as an AM in Nero. I would not have left Nero if the wage was not so poor. Little did I realise that the reason Pret pays a little more than its competitors is because the work is so intense, incredibly stressful and with a bullying environment under poorly trained management.

But I’m used to hard work and don’t shy away from it. I started in Pret in 2008 just when Bridgepoint, the private equity investor, purchased Pret and put forward the target to open on every street corner (in London specifically). That meant a lot of managers were needed, but there was not the effort to really train them, and most have neither people nor leadership skills.

But again, I gave Pret the benefit of the doubt, thinking in time when I moved on or rose upwards in position that it would become easier. I never expected this bullying environment – which at first I denied was happening as it happened in every shop I worked but it continued and even intensified when I was bereaved.

I was a team leader of the shop floor – there is a separate leadership in the kitchen – from around 2011 onwards. Team leaders do the real work, whereas managers tend to sit in the office, come in late, leave early, look important, go to meetings etc. Team leaders are blamed a lot while not being supported.

My story really starts to become horrendous when my brother died. This in itself was the most traumatic event in my life and I never expected to be treated so badly with the seeming intention to have me leave my employment as bereaved employees seem quickly to become something of an inconvenience in Pret, and often in many other companies.

My brother died in December 2014 in his flat and was not found for approximately six days when neighbours smelt the strong odour of his corpse. My brother was self-employed – after having gone back to studies, he started his own business as an environmental advisor on green energy to companies. He travelled throughout Germany where I’m from, so it was not unusual that neighbours didn’t see him much.

We didn’t know for five weeks that my brother died, and to make it even worse, the police did not investigate properly, not finding us and after a few weeks just cremated him. I have written extensively about this on my blog (https://expret.org/). Here, I summarise what I went through in Pret.

I travelled back and forth between London and Germany for the funeral, running errands, investigating what happened, brought my mum with me to London as I had to continue to work. I spent all my savings with all the costs and was forced to return to work.

I had basic support from Pret as staff receive a few days ‘compassionate leave’. But that was all. I was never sat down and told what support I may need, and was also put on late shifts which kept me from vital support from friends as I worked when they were off and they worked when I was off. Initially, I didn’t mind and didn’t even notice, as I couldn’t sleep until the morning anyway as I was tormented with shock and grief. I kept going to work to keep me occupied and distracted as best as possible.

I approached human resources (HR) informally to make a suggestion on how to support bereaved employees. But unbeknown to me at the time, I believe this inadvertently put a ‘target on my back’ and my superiors, I think with the guidance of HR, started pursuing me with little issues where I made mistakes (but my mistakes were even less than those of my colleagues).

One of several Mystery Shopper (MS) requirements is that staff have to smile, be friendly and show happiness all the time. Only recently have I learnt that this is called ‘emotional labour’ that is forced upon low-wage workers and I have since written about it. Also, in Pret, staff have one minute to serve customers, one minute to serve the hot drink from the time of payment, are tested to see if they give eye-contact, make some polite remarks etc. The MS even times the service to the second. I give a few examples with excerpts of MS comments on my website.

If teams fail in any or several points, the whole team loses its bonus. The bonus system is the biggest chunk towards managers’ remuneration. So, managers are extra strict when staff fail. I was traumatically bereaved: I even begged sometimes to be sent into the kitchen, away from the shop floor as I was tearing up at times and didn’t want to be seen by customers. I couldn’t afford to go home as I had had to spend all my savings. But I was denied this with the reason that I’m not used to the kitchen and would be slow. Everything in Pret has to be done fast. ‘Time is money’, customer circulation in and out of shops has to flow fast, meaning the money flows fast.

After I approached HR informally, I also requested a transfer to a shop where I would have rotating shift patterns, as my then general manager refused to give me rotating shifts as the evenings weren’t as busy and the MS visited very rarely in the evenings. I was warned when I didn’t smile by an area manager, and was summoned into the office on my day off because I made some minor mistakes. I was sent to another area and shop that had lots of problems, and in hindsight, I believe, I was sent there to set me up for failure.

I quickly became paranoid and felt I was targeted. And, I think I was right because months later I applied for my employee file which included emails between HR and managers who were brainstorming all the time what to do with me. I was constantly put under pressure in the hope I would resign. But I didn’t. I even declined four settlement offers if I’d resign and never speak about my ordeal or go to court. Three offers were made internally and the fourth was via the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) when I withdrew my Tribunal claim as my dad just died in the middle of preparing for the case. I could not afford a lawyer and was unable to fight this on my own.

I have collected other staff reviews from employment review websites, YouTube, Twitter etc and I have learnt the hard way that, without a union, there is no hope of raising issues of systemic workplace bullying. Many people were shocked and disbelieving when I mentioned how Pret really is behind its well-polished PR facade. Only the unions, activists and some from the press have believed me.

The targeting I went through was everything apart from sexual and physical violence – the typical bullying, both open and subtle. I was shouted at and, when this didn’t work, I was excluded from leaders’ meetings, was not given important information I needed to do my job, and was sent to difficult shops to receive a disciplinary for failing even in little things. Pret, it seems to me, works mainly with fear management.

The more perverse thing Pret did was with emails after I became ill. I believe I was targeted in group emails from my boss, in the emails I read between HR and managers etc. I spiralled into ‘ill emailing’. I received a disciplinary for the emailing but Pret used a Development Manager who told me she had also lost her brother in similar circumstances to my brother. She went into personal text messages and emailing with me because of our common grief. But this confused me further and, only in hindsight, does it now seem that I was being set up to get fired. I believe I was ‘gaslighted’ and then fired while my dad was in intensive care, just out of a coma. CEO Clive Schlee labelled me his ‘late night girl’ due to my late night emails to everyone which then lead to my firing. I adopted that label to be a sore in his and Pret’s eyes. I confront Pret openly on Twitter and Facebook about this.

Because I have never experienced anything like this in any workplace, I was so traumatized with my brother’s death and the circumstances surrounding it, I became so out-of-sync giving Pret the benefit of the doubt again and again and putting blame on myself and what psychologists call ‘Sibling Survivor Guilt’. I even apologised for a nervous breakdown after a line manager rebuked me repeatedly in front of my team. For an overview of my trauma with Pret, I have created a ‘Mind Map’ linking each title to a blog entry as my blog has grown: https://www.mindmeister.com/1194255218/my-pret-a-manger-ordeal

‘Late Night Girl’ also tweets at https://twitter.com/LateNightGirlMe and she was recently interviewed on a podcast based in California where she tells her story in more detail (see front page of her website: expret.org).

• The editor adds:
There is a facebook group, started in 2011, called ‘I Hate Pret A Manger’. And, a now former employee, Andrej Stopa, helped start the Pret A Manger Staff Union (PAMSU). He was reportedly fired in 2012 under the pretence of him allegedly having made homophobic remarks. See also the case of Rodrigo (in boxed graphic), another fired union activist. Unfortunately, both groups are not very active now. Unions like the BFAWU and UNITE are continuing to try to unionise Pret. For more on the employment practices of Pret, see The Guardian and The Independent.


 

Full text on its own.

Full Magazine with text on pages 21/22.

 

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The above slideshow is just a selection of comments and reviews taken from review sites, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and other sites. The list goes on in —> Pret Staff Complaints

 

UPDATE May 2019
TWO Pret staff have died.
More here >
Why is Pret not being Investigated?

 


 

I worked at Pret A Manger for almost 10 years and survived systemic workplace bullying during bereavement that involved HR, the top leadership, HQ and even the CEO. 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. I also tell my story for the first time verbally in this >>> podcast interview based in California. Thank you for reading/listening.

Interview:


©2019 expret.org

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of expret.org, poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission is prohibited.

©2017 – Present: expret.org, poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.

“Exploitative employers, We are coming for you”

 

McStrike-logo-300x264

 

 

 

Quote of the Day:

“Our message to exploitative employers is, that we are coming for you!”

John McDonnell

 

 

London’s Leicester Square 04.10.2018

 

 

Spoonstrike

 

 

BFAWU

 

 

A Message To Chains

 

For my people in the shops and on the streets, being loud and clear to say that we care for more than just peanuts and we deserve better than the disrespect we encounter for too long…

I miss my colleagues, working with them shoulder to shoulder, so I march with them shoulder to shoulder…. This is for them… more to come ………

 

 

ball-and-chain-2624325__340

 

A Message to Chains

 

One of those mornings

when I enter the shop

waiting for my colleagues to arrive

I am extremely down that day

but I keep going

 

Setting up the coffee machine

putting the frozen croissants into the oven

answering the phone to a colleague calling sick

putting down the phone

picking up my heart

I keep going

 

My team’s starting to trickle in

one by one, tired but Pret A Faire

I’m glad to see them

we all disperse to our jobs

and later the boss arrives

but I keep going

 

Noon-time

I want to press the snooze button

No! I want to smash it!

So exhausted!

Rude and ungrateful customers

boss having a go at us

colleagues fatigued

but I keep going

 

Hours missing from my pay

getting told off for nothing

rota changed without notice

and I keep going

 

Made a mistake

nothing much

but a catastrophe for my boss

so I keep crawling

 

Feeling low after life’s blow

going to work without pay

without help, with no meaning…

being bullied…

I keep going

and I strike

I strike

I strike

 

I strike back!

 

©2018 LateNightGirl.org

 

Fast-food Workers Strike, Leicester Square, London, nationwide and in other countries 4th October 2018.

 

©2018 LateNightGirl.org

 

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission are prohibited.

©2017 – 2018 poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.

 

Quote of the Day #33 – Red A Manager

 

fist-blow-power-wrestling-163431

 

 

Quote of the Day:

“Please have the staff send feedback more often about working within the company. Especially about the managers that come externally, as most of the time, their personality only is good for business, but not for the people that work under.”

Good suggestion, but unfortunately this would be a waste of energy and time because this type of management is calculated and wanted in Pret BECAUSE of business. Take it from me, I wrote my fingers into a carpal tunnel and spoke my tongue into a swollen slab, with bringing suggestion after suggestion to just hit a brick wall of indifference and stubbornness. The slogans and messages that “Pret is a family” like the CEO said straight after Brexit happened, is just PR to try and keep a work”force” in place that is in reality not a family of course, but like the military where they have to function like machines. Whoever doesn’t survive or is too “weak” will be discarded.

The “family” talk had me fooled for years as well breaking my head trying to understand why Pret is not doing anything about the poor management in shops. Ha Ha, Pret IS behind this poor management. “Good for business” is the only goal in Pret, as I came to wake up more and more after thinking for too long that they are just clumsy or incapable.

Military pexels-photo-279991

Last year when I still worked in Pret I was on my lunch break during a shift in my shop one afternoon, when a Manager In Training (MIT) joined me for lunch who just came back from his training day in HQ. He was looking at his training manual at the part of the “The Four Insights Discovery Colour Energies” that Pret teaches and implements for their managers and which is briefly touched on in Team Leader training courses as well.

Remember, the red, yellow, green, blue in personality and management styles? The MIT casually looked at this page while eating and we started chatting when I asked him how the training is going and if it was good, anything interesting he learned etc. We just had some small talk. I always ask people how it’s going whatever they are doing at that point as I love learning about them.

When I saw the page with the colours, I asked him what he discovered his main colour is. He explained what his colour is and I was perplexed, because he said that his colour is red. I responded surprised and said that I thought his colour was more like a mix of green and yellow, because he was quite caring, fun to be around with, although he was somewhat hectic and clumsy as he was new to Pret coming from a different business. But when I responded surprised at his colour he then said something that had me not only in tears, but the scales from my eyes fell off and it all made sense.

Me responding that his colour may be more green or yellow, not at all red, he said, “No, no, they (the trainers in HQ) told us to kill the green because we are a business”, that red is better for business.

These were the literal, exact words he repeated from his training!

Kill the green because we are a business!

I almost had my food stuck in my throat when he said that. He knew my story of mistreatment during bereavement a little bit, and I just teared up right in front of him and said to him, that “this attitude they are teaching you to ‘kill’ the green literally almost killed me!”

He just starred at me in silence as if the penny dropped since knowing my story. He just went quiet as if having second thoughts on his “choice” of colour. I don’t know where he is now, if he made it to be a manager, I’m sure he did, but I hope these few minutes of a conversation had him rethink his approach and not doubt his colour or personality, nor let anyone tell him how to twist himself into a “colour” that he is not, a colour that hurts people including himself.

This is why this review I posted a few days ago makes so much sense and my years of experience in a raging red hot environment that gotten me ill and almost dead!

Well done to my fellow former team leader colleague for leaving early!

2018-07-31 Quote #33 Pret A Red

Former Team Leader

Taken from a list of Pret Staff Complaints collected from Employment Review websites.

 

©2018 LateNightGirl.org

 

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission are prohibited.

©2017 – 2019 poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.