The chairman of pubs group JD Wetherspoon, Tim Martin, today defended the firm’s use of controversial zero-hours contracts, claiming that increased regulation would put up the price of a pint.
The employment practice, where employees are only paid for hours worked, has been in the spotlight after Labour pledged a crackdown on the contracts. Wetherspoon has around 24,000 staff employed on these terms across its pubs.
Martin, pictured, said: “(Zero-hours contracts) have been less of an issue in pubs than in the political sphere. It started off with people on flexible contracts who were not getting holiday pay, sick pay, maternity pay, but at Wetherspoons they receive all of those things and they are eligible for free shares and bonuses.
“In a trade like pubs it would probably push up the price of a pint if there was regulation... A third of the price of a pint is in wages now compared with 5% in a supermarket. Most people will get the hours they want in reality.”
Wetherspoon is paying out £28.6 million in free shares and bonuses after record results. Of this around 83%, or £23.7 million, is paid to pub staff, with pub managers taking just over half and the remainder split between the zero-hours staff.
Despite a beer duty cut in March’s Budget, Martin’s tax bill rose more than £32 million in the year to July 28 and he is cranking up his campaign for VAT parity with supermarkets to level the playing field.
Martin is supporting campaigner Jacques Borel’s VAT Club on Tax Parity Day although the Government estimates cutting VAT to 5% for the hospitality sector could cost the Treasury more than £11 billion.
The group posted forecast-beating pre-tax profits of £76.9 million with sales at pubs open more than a year up 3.6% in the six weeks to 8 September. The shares, up nearly 40% since the start of the year, ticked 5.5p lower to 729.5p.