G1 employees stage protest on Ashton Lane against alleged exploitation


Fraser McGowan

More than 30 protesters staged a demonstration on Ashton Lane on Thursday 27 August, in opposition to millionaire Stefan King’s treatment of staff at his G1 bar and nightclub empire. It was revealed earlier this year by the UK government that G1 Group had been paying its staff less than the minimum wage.

Protesters, G1 employees amongst them, played instruments and waved placards in front of customers before displaying banners which read: “G1 = 10 million profit, 2895 staff = No Min[imum] Wage” and “Living Wage Now”.  The protest was organised by Better than Zero, a group with campaigns against the use of zero-hours contracts. G1 Group has denied offering staff zero-hour contracts, instead offering what it calls “variable hour contracts”.

The Daily Record reported allegations by G1 employees that the Glasgow-based company refuses to pay for taxis for staff that finish their shifts in the early hours of the morning; staff working twelve hour shifts often have a break of as little as 15 minutes; and that employees are required to pay for their own uniforms, or face losing their jobs. The Glasgow Guardian contacted G1 Group asking them to respond to these allegations, but received no response.

G1 Group owns 51 separate venues across Scotland, including the Polo Lounge, Viper, Kushion and the Shimmy Club. On Ashton Lane, it owns the Grosvenor, Ketchup and the Research Club.

In March this year, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills reported that: “G1 Venues Ltd, trading as Arta Restaurant, Glasgow, neglected to pay £45,124 to 2895 workers”. Of the 48 employers named, G1 Group was the worst offender in financial terms in the UK. Former business minister Jo Swinson said at the time: “There’s no excuse for companies that don’t pay staff the wages they’re entitled to – whether by wilfully breaking the law, or making irresponsible mistakes.

“The government is protecting workers by cracking down on employers who ignore minimum wage rules. In addition to naming and shaming, we’ve increased the penalty fines and boosted the resources available to investigate non-compliance.”

G1 Group claimed that staff were paid below the minimum wage because it was previously the case that members of staff were asked to make a “small contribution” towards the cost of training and uniforms.

Unite activist Kieran McCallum, who helped organise the demonstration, said: “Younger workers, especially in restaurants, are often subjected to some of the most exploitative working practices, purely because of their age.

“They experience low pay, zero hour contracts, and other forms of precarious employment. The G1 Group in particular were brought to Better Than Zero’s attention because of their failure to pay the minimum wage, failure to cover training costs and making workers’ pay for their own uniforms.

“The flash mob on Ashton Lane shows how strongly younger people such as myself feel about how we are being treated by companies like G1 and how we won’t put up with it. We deserve better.”

Unite Community Coordinator Jamie Caldwell told the Glasgow Guardian: “Unite is bringing young people in precarious employment together to campaign against the increasing trend of exploitative employment practice.

“This isn’t a case of ‘campaigning as usual’. We are taking to social media, workplaces, the streets – and occasionally to trendy haunts like Ashton Lane for a flash mob – to spread the message that young people deserve better at work.

“Our young members played an integral role in the flash mob and I’m know they’re planning more in the same vein to drive the message home that Dickensian employment practices have no place in the 21st century.’”

Earlier this year, Skills Development Scotland discovered that £411,834 had been incorrectly paid to G1’s training company. The money has since been repaid and the firm has since been removed from the Scottish government’s training scheme, which provides funding to companies that wish to develop the skills of their workforce.