Credit: abandonshipbar via Instagram

MacMerry300 owner accused of lying to press amidst Covid breach scandal

By Lucy Dunn

As staff collectively launch grievance against company MacMerry300 – which owns Abandon Ship and The Bull in Glasgow – for “systemic mistreatment”, Unite the Union further claim that owner Phil Donaldson has made false statements in his latest press release.

Staff employed at 13 bars across Glasgow and Dundee are accusing top management of “neglecting” to convey important information about Covid, “pressuring” employees waiting on PCR results to return to work, and “inconsistencies” in staff contracts, taxes, pension payments and sick pay. The full list of grievances has been published on Twitter by Unite the Union, which named a selection of the hospitality venues involved as including The Luchador, Bird & Bear, Draffens, The Bull, Fly South and Franks, which are all owned by MacMerry300, with some co-owned by Abandon Ship Ltd.

Recent allegations regarding Covid-19 state that whilst “many members of staff tested positive [or] became close contacts”, MacMerry300 did not tell staff whether they were a close contact even after other employees had tested positive. The company’s attitude to the illness appeared to err on the side of caution, with employees who had not yet received PCR results feeling “pressured” to come in. The staff collective stated via Unite that: “Staff members who know they are close contacts with positive colleagues are being told to come into work until they are contacted by NHS track and trace, thereby knowingly putting other staff and customers at risk through none of their own choosing. A refusal to do this is met with threats of disciplinary action.”

Workers said that there was lacking guidance from top management around “LFTs, increased hygiene measures, cleaning measures [or] distancing measures”, and that if employees expressed discomfort about working during an “active outbreak”, they were “being threatened with disciplinary action”.

The Glasgow Guardian has been informed that owner Phil Donaldson has been accused of falsehoods in his latest press statement, which reads: “What you may not have been told is that the boss, Phil, has already contacted all staff over the weekend highlighting his personal contact details and inviting staff to use them to air any issues. He has also offered to meet with the Union rep any day next week. (An invitation which has so far been ignored, amidst other exchanges).”

However, The Glasgow Guardian has seen email exchanges between Phil Donaldson and Unite where Donaldson appears to be the one preventing further dialogue from occurring between himself and the union. Donaldson told Unite: “I think now it has got to this point, the communication needs to be solely through our lawyer.”

This morning at 11.01am (9 Jan 2022), Donaldson received an email from Unite which said: “If you want to appoint a solicitor that is entirely your choice, but you will need to communicate with your workers and their union over this grievance and the recognition of Unite as the union for collective bargaining purposes. We need clarity on when you can meet, as directors.”

20 minutes later, Donaldson responded simply with: “The lawyer will communicate with you.” His statement above was then released.

Unite told us: “Despite originally agreeing to meet to discuss the serious issues raised by 70% of staff, the Director of MacMerry300, Phil Donaldson, is now refusing to communicate and wants to go through lawyers rather than speak to his workers collectively. We would urge him and other directors to heed the requests of a majority of their staff and meet with the union which represents the workforce.”

MacMerry300 is jointly owned by Phil Donaldson, Richard Davies and AJ McMenemy. Their hospitality venues include Abandon Ship, Fly South, The Luchador and The Bull in Glasgow. Amidst the accusations of Covid breaches, MacMerry300 have closed their flagship venue in Dundee, The King of Islington.

Abandon Shop also sells clothing, under “Abandon Ship Apparel”. Owner Davies has come under fire before in 2016 after he was accused of liquidating one company to then continue the clothing brand with another, in a move to avoid paying off debt and leaving one company that made the Abandon Ship Apparel t-shirts “high and dry“.

A spokesperson for MacMerry300 has denied that 70% of staff are involved in the collective grievance against the company, and commented: “Hospitality is a highly regulated industry where staff and customer safety is paramount.

“We utterly refute the claims made and will be consulting with staff immediately to find out why allegations may have been levelled. We are, of course, also willing to discuss any genuine grievances or concerns.”


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