Papa John’s pizza shops (PJ), contrary to their folksy name, are a massive American chain with over 350 franchises across Britain and 5,000 franchises elsewhere. The franchises are managed locally by numerous franchisees.
On Saturday 25 July, workers and ex-workers gathered outside the Papa John’s on Ecclesall Road in Sheffield to protest at the treatment meted out to them.
When the previous franchise holder, Tofur Ali, was running the shop, wages were not paid on time and in some cases amounted to less than the legal minimum. There was no access to private toilets and staff worked long shifts without breaks. The shop stayed open through lockdown under these conditions.
Then on 27 June staff turned up to work, only to learn that the shop was closed, Tofur Ali had been ousted and the business was under new management. In the ensuing month the new franchisee failed to take responsibility for the wages that Tofur Ali had illegally withheld from the workers. It was only when workers stood outside the shop, supported by the Bakers Union (BFAWU) and local community activists, and demanded that Papa John’s pay them what they were owed that a grudging undertaking was extracted that the issue would be resolved and the workers paid.
Ian Hodson, President of the The Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union [BFAWU] is the largest independent trade union in the food sector in the British Isles and is the Papa John’s workers’ union, said:“Papa John’s states on its website: ‘People Are Priority Always’. This is a hollow statement when these workers were willing to put themselves and their families at risk by working during lockdown and Papa John’s repays them – by not paying them!”
The Union has pointed out that the scandalous situation at Papa John’s in Sheffield is far from being an isolated aberration: “In 2017, researchers from Middlesex University estimated that wage theft, where workers are not paid wages they are owed or unlawful deductions are made, is widespread across the country with at least 2 million workers in Britain losing over £3 billion in unpaid holiday pay and wages each year. (5) It is said to particularly affect the low paid and those on insecure contracts” (BWAFU website).
All workers involved in the action, organised by Sheffield Needs A Pay Rise, now say they have been paid in full for wages owed, from shifts worked as long ago as February 2020.