Tim Martin takes Guardian journalist to task over video

Tim Martin responds to journalist Owen Jones of The Guardian. Jones interviewed Wetherspoon founder and chairman Tim Martin at The Last Post, the company’s Southend-on-Sea pub. Jones went on to release a heavily-edited video, in which, Martin says, he completely misrepresented Wetherspoon’s pay and employment practices.

Regarding pay, Martin commented, “On average, Wetherspoon pays 15.8% over the statutory minimum wage. Wetherspoon pays 5.5% more than the National Living Wage, which applies to those over the age of 25.

“Wetherspoon has also abolished ‘youth rates’, meaning 18-24 year olds are paid the same starting rate as those over 25. Owen didn’t get the figures right and made critical comments, which aren’t justified.'

On the bonus scheme, Martin responded, ' “Owen’s video left out a very important fact: Wetherspoon pays, as I told him, over 50% of its profits (over £40m in 2018) as a bonus and free shares, to people who work in the company. Over 80% of the bonus goes to people who work in the pubs.

“We pay a higher percentage of profits, as a bonus, than any other substantial company of which we are aware, other than perhaps John Lewis.'

On the share scheme, Martin stated, “Wetherspoon has also adopted a share scheme for all employees, which was introduced by the last Labour government, in around 2004. We now have over 10,000 employees who have been allocated shares in the company. On average, employees have received 350 shares, worth around £4,000.'

Martin said about emlpoyment, “Looking at Wetherspoon’s employment practices overall, 93% of our staff now have a guaranteed minimum hours contract. This has been a very popular move, and we believe this a greater percentage than any other substantial pub company. We’ve also got a very good apprenticeship scheme, with about 1,000 employees taking part.

“Around 10 people per pub have worked for the company for over 5 years. We’ve got an average of 3 people per pub who have worked for us for over 10 years. In the pub world, where there are a lot of students, part-time workers and high staff turnover, this says something about the company. We try to encourage people to stay with us for a long time, and many do.

“We’ve also got very good connections with Leeds Beckett University (previously Leeds Metropolitan University) and several hundred people have got degrees or diplomas while working for the company.

“These factors have contributed to Wetherspoon being named as a UK Top Employer 2019, marking 16 consecutive years of recognition by the Top Employers Institute, in association with The Guardian.'

Martin went onto to clarify the firm's tax contribution. He said, 'One point that I made to Owen that he left out of his video relates to tax. Wetherspoon pays a huge amount of tax: 43% of our sales.

“For every pint that goes over the bar – 43% of that sale goes to the government through one tax or another. These taxes include VAT, alcohol duty, climate change levies and so on.

“In fact, Wetherspoon pays just about one thousandth of all the taxes paid in the UK. In other words, you only need just over 1,000 companies like Wetherspoon and no one else has to pay any tax whatsoever. That amounts to almost £10 of tax to £1 of profits.

“Not only do we, thanks to the hard work of our employees, restore buildings and generate a lot of jobs, but we’re also a big contributor to government finances.'

Martin's final point was made about Glassdoor. He said, “A website a lot of people look at is Glassdoor. Employees use Glassdoor to anonymously rate their own company. Wetherspoon does okay on this site, rated 3.3 out of a possible 5.

“Some of our competitors are around 2.5, while Fuller’s, a very good pub company, are slightly ahead of us on 3.5. We’re also rated almost exactly the same as the Guardian.

“We’re sure the Guardian is a good employer and does its best, but may not be perfect. However, we’re sure the Guardian is trying to improve, and so is Wetherspoon.”