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Pret a Manger Makes Pandemic Pay Cuts Permanent to Worker Dismay

The chain claims its hand is forced by COVID-19’s “big impact on our business,” but it’s found money to try out numerous innovations

A Pret a Manger takeaway bag, coffee, and tub of salad on a stone bench, with an office worker in a suit sat next to them looking at their phone
Pret a Manger’s pandemic response has included a lot of retail novelty, and, now, keeping staff pay cuts
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Pret a Manger workers have criticised the maroon sandwich behemoth for retaining pandemic pay cuts just as innovations it introduced to counteract the impact of COVID-19 result in increased pressure at work. The chain, whose lucrative central London portfolio became a lead weight around its neck through 2020 and early 2021, is retaining cuts to paid breaks and a service bonus it introduced — temporarily, it said — in July last year, according to the Guardian.

Workers that spoke to newspaper say that the decision is compounded by its coincidence with the rising popularity of one of Pret’s most hail mary survival moves: A coffee subscription with which a very, very keen drinker could secure 155 drinks per month for £20 (it offers five drinks per day.) While the chain’s economic recovery may not be — in its bosses’s eyes — sufficient to reverse pay cuts, the increased pressure on its staff as they return after long periods of furlough means their continuation feels punishing.

Pret also hasn’t skimped on reinventing its offer as it tries to navigate the fact that office workers who build their personalities on its sandwiches aren’t coming back in sufficient number just yet. It’s introduced two dinner delivery menus; tried to get people to buy its coffee at the supermarket to drink at home; tried to get people to buy its coffee at the supermarket to drink at the supermarket; and, in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, laid off 3,000 employees and closed 30 cafes.

The company told the Guardian that “the business is still trading significantly below pre-pandemic levels, but we continue to review our benefits. This is in no way a reflection of the hard work of our teams, and we’re incredibly grateful for their dedication and commitment.” But for staff who earn £8.91 per hour and no longer get paid for their legally required 30-minute break, these wishy-washy corporate platitudes are not washing, to the point that strike action is being considered for 6 September 2021, with backing from the Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union (BAFWU.)

More soon on whether or not the strike will go ahead.