The MacMerry pub chain says it is working “tirelessly” to improve conditions following shocking allegations of poor practice and ill-treatment of staff at its premises across Scotland.
Along with sister company Abandon Ship Bar Ltd, Macmerry has pledged to address staff complaints about safety and pay after the Unite union filed a litany of complaints against them.
They run the Abandon Ship bars in Glasgow and Dundee, as well as other high-end bars such as The Luchador, Bird and Bear, Draffens and The King of Islington, and have been planning an expansion to London.
However, a Daily Record investigation revealed that managers at the company were said to have ignored potential health and safety breaches, staff were asked to come to work while they awaited Covid test results, and management did not investigated allegations of sexual misconduct.
The workers also claimed income tax and pension contributions were deducted from their wages, but not transferred to HMRC or the Nest superannuation fund.
Company bosses Phil Donaldson, AJ McMenemy, Richard Davies and Martin Cannon met virtually with union representatives last week in a five-hour meeting to discuss the claims.
They have now agreed to investigate staff pay irregularities and appointed the independent human resources firm Dorothy McKinney to investigate allegations of harassment, sexual misconduct and assault.
Staff will also have access to an app that will allow them to see all of their payment receipts, after some complained that companies were not being transparent about payments.
The Registry understands that at least one senior bar worker has been suspended.
In a statement, Phil Donaldson said: “We have worked tirelessly since hearing the complaints last week and believe we have taken significant steps to address and investigate all aspects of the complaints raised.
“We’re using this as an opportunity to focus on operations and build a stronger, healthier business for everyone.”
Meanwhile, Davies, the entrepreneur behind the Abandon Ship clothing line, said in a social media post that he would work to improve “training, policies and clear lines of communication” in bars that carry his brand.
The developments have been greeted with caution by Bryan Simpson, industry organizer for Unite’s hospitality arm.
However, the union says it remains concerned that bosses at MacMerry and Abandon Ship are doing no more than the “legal minimum” to care for staff, and has urged management to come to the table to discuss how to move forward.
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Simpson said: “The appointment of an independent investigator is welcome as it ensures that the most serious allegations are dealt with independently of senior management and directors.
“Establishing an app that allows workers to see all their salaries, accrued vacations and pensions on one platform is also a positive step.
“The rest of the wage and condition ‘audit’ promised at the January 19 grievance meeting appeared to be simply a commitment to pay all wages, vacations, sick leave and pensions in accordance with the law.
“While this is a start, particularly given how long Macmerry workers have waited for this, we want managers to go further to improve conditions for staff.”
The MacMerry dispute has reignited talks over wages and conditions for service workers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
It also caught the attention of Dundee SNP MP Chris Law, who wrote to the company seeking reassurance, and North East Scottish Labor Party member Mercedes Villalba, who tabled a motion in support of the Holyrood workers.
Villalba said: “The alleged conduct of the MacMerry 300 and Abandon Ship group is completely unacceptable.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.