In September 2014 G1, having already claimed ownership of Mitchells Deli, Forgan’s and the Vic, tightened its grip on the town’s fine and casual dining market. The Glasgow-based group was dealt a full house, acquiring The Dolls House, The Grill House and The Glass House. The move secured G1 control of six bars and restaurants, more than a fifth of the St Andrews market.
Fast forward seven months, and the news that G1 has topped a list of UK employers who failed to pay workers the national minimum smacks of a group that has overplayed its hand. A report by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills revealed that the company has underpaid almost 3,000 staff by more than £45,000.
“One thing all our places have in common is our people – they work hard, often behind the scenes, and they are the best at what they do,” G1’s website gushes. These positive feelings, however, are certainly not reciprocated.The revelations about the group’s failure to pay minimum wage sparked a torrent of testimonials from aggrieved former and current employees. “I worked for them and wouldn’t have a single good thing to say about them,” commented one employee. Another stated: “I worked for them part-time as a cleaner over the summer a couple of years ago and they only paid me £70 out of the £270 they owed me.”
In its defence, G1 claimed deductions made to cover uniform and staff training were the reason behind its failure to pay minimum wage. “On some occasions, we have asked our employees to make a small contribution towards the cost of workwear or training to enhance their career performance,” a spokesperson said. “We are extremely focused on the protection, training and development of our staff, from junior roles on national minimum wage all the way through to senior management levels.”
Yet, Business Minister Jo Swinson was damning in her assessment of the group’s failure to work within the law. “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,” she commented. G1 has since put a stop to the deduction of wages to pay for uniforms and training, but it is too little too late.
Its monopolisation of the St Andrews market has coincided with an egregious level of exploitation that has cheated thousands out of thousands of pounds.
According to the National Minimum Wage Commission, 90 per cent of people questioned for a survey consider companies that avoid their legal responsibility as a “disgrace”.
Indeed, when The Saint reported the news it was shared over 200 times online and dozens of St Andreans commented condemning the group. “People in St Andrews in particular should be aware of what they are endorsing when they visit any of their premises, ” one former G1 employee suggested.
The minimum wage exists for a reason and its implementation is a measure of the respect employers afford their staff. With such dominance in St Andrews, it is unlikely that the G1 revelations will impact business. However, the group’s reputation has been severely and potentially irreparably damaged. £6.31 is a small price to pay to restore it.