Sunday, March 29, 2009


Friday, October 21, 2005

Letter 5

Des Byrth
93 North Rd
Brighton BN1 1YE

27 September 2005

Dear Des

Sorry it’s been a couple of days since I saw my doctor and I promised to contact you within this time to give you my decision.

My doctor said that I was not unfit to work but advised me against returning to the atmosphere I described and will stand by me with this decision.

Regarding the grievance procedure I was expecting to receive a list of answers to all my grievances within 7 days our out latest meeting, but so far all I have only received partial and unsatisfactory answers so I am not clear at what point I will be in a position to appeal against what I expect to be an unsatisfactory outcome to move on from the stage that we are now in.

I would like to invite my union representative to attend the appeal and I will be meeting with her on October 5th to run through our correspondence.

best wishes


Letter 4

Des Byrth
93 North Rd
Brighton BN1 1YE

16 September 2005

Dear Des

Thanks for your letter of September 14 which I received by special delivery this morning.. I thought my letter of September 7 which included the facsimile I sent to you on Monday 12th made it clear the reasons I could not attend the meeting you arranged and had you been able to read this or any of the other faxes I have sent you there might be less misunderstanding than there appears to be now.

I don’t see how you can claim that this time was specifically set aside for me as you have repeated to me so many times that you routinely spend Monday in the office and hold surgeries every day from 10 to 11.

There is no way I can “switch off” my voicemail as it is a permanent service on the network that will always take calls if I do not answer or if my phone is busy. I also have a record of incoming calls that were not answered and your number does not appear there so it seems Charlie witnessed you calling the wrong number. My email address has been printed on every letter I have sent you, as well as on my application. I don’t see the need to have recorded delivery of our correspondence, but I am surprised that it took your staff nearly a week to deliver my letter.

The reason I had to hand it to this person was that you have changed the door entry code and I have not been notified of the new code. I did not see any managers and did not see the need to report to one as my only reason for coming in was to hand deliver the letter which was lost after being sent as a fax.

I already raised my issues with your line manager but he passed this back to you. I can do so again if you wish but I assume he will do the same thing. I don’t see why it was necessary to carry out a survey of the staff’s appreciation of non-wagamama food, but in any case I think it is very unfortunate that you concluded that this was favoured in place of what the customers want.

Of course you did not ask me if I was in good enough health to return to work - I have not reported any illness since the finger incident. You said have I been seeing a doctor to which my puzzled reply was yes, I had to get help with my finger. It was at this point you explained the reason you asked the question was because you had heard “Chinese whispers” about the fact that I was seeing a doctor. You refused to elaborate any further so I assume that these whispers were of a derogatory nature, referring either to my mental health about some disease which I was not declaring. If Charlie Thong thinks he witnessed something different it would seem that someone more independent is needed to witness on my behalf.

I don’t know how you can state that you do not ask staff to come in to meetings in their own time after our last meeting which was not only in my time but I was kept waiting over 30 minutes. It was the same the last 2 times Charlie called me in for a meeting, but I am not sure if there is any point mentioning this as he will no doubt deny it.

I don’t understand why you have only paid 16 hours since I was absent for at least 5 normal working days between 22/4 and 6/5. I was not due to work on Saturday 23 April.

Regarding the bank holiday pay, I don’t know why you have only paid 6 hours as my payslip indicates I did an 8 hour shift on that day.

I don’t know what calendar you are using as there is no Monday 15th September in mine. I will be seeing my doctor again on Tuesday 20th September and I will give you my decision within a day or two of that meeting.

best wishes


Letter 3

Des Byrth
93 North Rd
Brighton BN1 1YE

7 September 2005

Dear Des

Thanks for your letter of August 31. I am sorry you appear to have failed to receive the fax I sent you again, which is ironic as it contained details of the previous fax I sent you which you did not receive. I also fail to see how you failed to contact me as I have two numbers with voicemail and a working email address.

What I said was that I had not yet been able to get the copy of my doctor’s note at that time. In fact it has only just been re-issued, so I will pick it up and enclose it with this letter.

One thing I have not mention already is that I don’t think it is reasonable to expect staff to attend meetings at your initiative without being compensated. I have attended several of these in the past and it seems like there are more to come. I’ve no idea why the company does not pay it’s staff for this time. As your surgery is only open for one hour a day I assume that it would be necessary to take ones own time to attend this if this does not coincide with work hours.

I am not sure why you have stated that I am completely happy with my pay and treat,,ent, but I assume we can discuss this later.

To be honest I do not feel comfortable returning to a workplace where you have interrogated the staff to find out if any are willing to corroborate any of my observations, or a workplace where Chinese whispers are circulating about my physical or mental well-being.

best wishes

Letter 2 (fax)

Des Byrth
92 North St
Brighton BN1

Tuesday, 30 August 2005

Dear Des

Sorry I have not yet recieved verification of the sick not that was issued on 9 May. I will give this to you as soon as it is available but in the mean time I thought you might be interested to see what I actually asked for at that time.

Also for your information, I found these fax records:

completed at
Fri Jul 1 11:15:27 2005
completed at
Fri Jul 1 11:15:54 2005

best wishes

Letter 1

jay travis
operations director
23-25 eastcastle street


Dear Jay,

I am writing to you to draw your attention to the situation in your new restaurant in
Brighton. Within the first week I made the following observations:

1. The overall atmosphere is one of bullying and intimidation. Criticism is guaranteed
constantly, while praise and the word please is rarely heard. Not only is this demotivating but it is also disrespectful and stressful. Although I thought I had been hired to cook I have not been allowed to do this. Instead I am assigned piecemeal work that is continuously interrupted by chefs ordering me to carry out their menial tasks. Instead of assigning me an objective for the day I have to ask for each job as I complete the last, and when there is nothing to do I am usually shouted at for being idle within a few seconds.

2. The management is inconsistent. Each team leader has a different idea of how to do something, so every day the same task must be performed differently, and every day a new manager will inform you that you are doing something the wrong way.
Although there are guides for some tasks, these are also absent for many routine
jobs. Where there are guidelines we are told that they are wrong, often with good
reason. Sometimes the guidelines are unrealistic, for example where the exact
length and weight of meat and vegetables is specified where the raw materials are
naturally inclined to be different. Although you claim to believe in kaizen, there is
nothing to indicate how you expect this to be put into practice.

3. The first I heard that my cap was my responsibility and worth £10 was on my first
pay slip where the “deposit” was deducted. When I asked about this I told all the
managers I had misplaced mine in the restaurant laundry service. I was told that on this occasion it would be replaced but it was not despite two reminders. It was only when a manager I had never seen1 demanded to know where it was that I was given a replacement. Ironically I had no idea who he was while he chose to spend several minutes explaining to me the importance of the name badge, and it took several weeks to be issued me with a name badge. This is all the more frustrating as I am expected to bring and maintain my own trousers and shoes at my own expense.
/>4. Although we are always told we are to work as a team we are not led by example. In the above example the manager started working in the kitchen in his own clothes
and did not wear a badge. We have been told to eat in the staff room which is not a
problem but I have been told I cannot wait for my food in the restaurant and that
serving staff will not bring it to me. At the same time managers routinely spread their
work across dining tables and order items that are not available to other staff.

5. The working conditions are so cramped that my physical space is constantly
intruded with people passing behind knocking into me. In some case it is the arm
that is chopping that gets knocked. The lighting is behind me, so I am working in my
own shadow. The work surface is about six inches above the rest of the kitchen and
although I am relatively tall it is not very comfortable. The sheer volume and continuity of chopping results in RSI after just one day - aching muscles and blisters have
resulted. There appears to be one sink in an area 2 metres wide where there are
usually two chefs working with different food types alongside the dish cleaning area.
I notice the food alert inspector did not consider this acceptable but raw fish and
chicken continues to mingle with salad and vegetables.

6. I think it is unreasonable to expect staff to change into and out of their uniform in
their own time: this is a requirement for the job and I don’t think any other
respectable employer would cease to consider someone to be working as they don
appropriate clothing. Furthermore when completing a shift staff are routinely required
to work overtime to complete outstanding jobs, and this is never paid since we are
told we can only be paid the hours written in the rota.

7. I think it is somewhat unique and incredible that you have a policy of not paying staff for their first day of work. I am not quite sure where zero fits on the minimum wage scale, but I don’t think it should take an entire day (in my case 10 hours) to evaluate someone’s ability to do the job.

8. Allowing the minimum break time of 20 minutes for 6 hours is not enough time to
eat lunch. Also repetitive work should have more frequent breaks.

It is now 6 months since my I wrote the notes above, and although the bullying has subsided with the disappearance of the executive chefs, I am constantly informed by the head chef that my work is not up to standard, but whenever I ask him to specify he makes vague and unquantifiable allegations about comments he says have been written by the sous-chefs about the standard of my work, but the only sous chef I have worked with for the last 2 months says he has no problem with my work and is in fact very happy to have me as part of the team.

Regarding my sixth point, the situation has deteriorated. I have been told to come to the restaurant on several occasions to deal with administrative procedures in my own time, and because of this my shifts usually run over by 15 minutes while I am passed from one manager to the other in an attempt to find out what time I am rostered for the following week. In the end I am often told to call back, and it usually takes about 3 attempts to find someone who can tell me when my shift will begin. But if I am a minute late I notice my pay is docked by up to an hour, so it seems it is all take on your side and no give.

About 3 months ago the head chef attempted to cease staff meals, and instead had one chef spending half the morning creating something that was not on the menu and required shopping for ingredients. We were told this was because of a “stock inbalance“ and indirectly accused of stealing. Around the same time juices were withdrawn and have not been restored since. Of course it is your right to withdraw these perks, but then you would be about the only restaurant in the world to deprive its staff of this. And I fail to see how the head chef saves money having special lunches created that will likely displease some of the staff.

As a result of the poor lighting and stressful conditions I cut the end of my finger off. I was told to go to my GP with a napkin drenched in blood. I appreciate it creates extra paperwork when a visit to casualty is made, but under the circumstances it did not seem rational to go anywhere else. My pay was docked from the time of my return even though I had to have the wound redressed 6 times.

I was told that I would receive statutory sick pay, but despite completing all the forms and providing both a sick note and a fit to return to work note I was instead paid my holiday hours. I was told that a manager would call me to check I was OK and set a return date, but after 2 weeks when no one called I called in to find out why. I was summoned by the head chef to visit him in my own time over the weekend, only to be told that according to the company rule book, missing two shifts in a row amounted to effective resignation. After a protracted discussion during which I offered several times to just accept my P45 and be done with it, the head chef told be to wait another 30 minutes while he sought the permission of the manager to fire me. In the end I was told that this could not be done. Perhaps it was the best way to punish me for being sick that I should have to continue working? But I had to wait another 10 days before the new rota was made before even this was possible, apparently.

Five months later, 2 faxes that were “lost”, emails that “cannot be received” and several written and spoken requests I have yet to get full payment of statutory sick pay, and the one day of holiday I have taken in 6 months was unpaid because it was wrongly misappropriated when I was in fact sick. Likewise for several unpaid hours and bank holiday payments.

When I started I was told that although wagamama opts to pay its staff minimum wage, the tips should boost my pay by about 50% which seemed fair enough as this is standard practice. Even though the publicly displayed tronc receipts and staff costs indicate that tips amount to 25% of wages, I have been paid a total of £36 on earnings of £900 or about 3%. Whenever I ask about this I am lied to by the managers.

Since the restaurant turnover has decreased by about 30%, staff hours have been cut randomly. In my case it has been about 70% to 100% since the last two weeks I have been told there is no call for my services, even though there are plenty of chefs working full time at the same time. Even without the reduced turnover it is clear from hindsight that it was never your intention to keep everyone you hired. It was never stated that our positions were temporary and it seems you assumed you would be able to lose enough staff by abusing them in the way you do. We were all called in to a meeting (without being paid of course) and told that it was necessary to reduce everyone’s hours, but it would have been fairer to dismiss those that could not be employed for the hours they expected. Interestingly, when the head chef asked if anyone had any problems there was a stunned silence. Presumably no one knew where to begin. Although some have been offered relocation, I think in my case you are discriminating against me because of my part time status.

Although your policy and in fact the law states part time workers should be treated equally there is an abundance of evidence that you do only offer this concept lip service. I have only once been given the opportunity to feedback my performance and discuss safety issues (again a legal requirement rather than a wagamama initiative), otherwise I am expected to do nothing but work continuously all the hours I am in the restaurant apart from the 20 minutes you give us to wolf down our food. I have never been informed of any changes to the menus or anything other than the next task I must complete. I think now that my rights within the company have reached the 6 month qualification period it is your aim to drive me out and replace me with someone who has not earned these rights.

The chicken katsu smells unbelievably rotten after defrosting, and many of the breasts are so small they look like they have come from birds that have been trodden to death half way through their lives. The process of enrobing them with flour, egg and bread is naturally the least favoured amoung chefs and of course it falls to me to prepare this in huge quantities whenever it is my turn to work. I think that this process would be better done centrally, but I am certain there is no point in making this or any other suggestion since I have already seen my suggestion and those of others dismissed by management. You may also be interested to know one reason Brighton wagamama sales have plummeted is that it has earned a reputation locally for being somewhat tasteless. No doubt sales would drop even further if the public learned about your battery chicken and egg procurement policies as well as your inhumane and disrespectful attitude towards your staff.

You may be wondering why I have not raised any of these issues earlier, but I wanted to wait and see if it was just the odd mistake that I was witnessing or consistent wagamama policy. I was also afraid it would affect my prospects of employment withiin the company but I now know that there are none. It now seems to me that wagamama is a company with little principles apart from maximising its profits. I think the working conditions in MacDonalds are better, but so far you have evaded the notice of the media. I know this letter seems long, but to be honest it is just a very short selection of all of the appalling practices I have witnessed in operation at your Brighton outlet and I would be interested to know how this restaurant compares with your other branches.

Thanks for reading this far. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you need any clarification.

TGWU are coming to town

The union will be joining me today in what HR from HQ describe as stage 1 of my grievance procedure even though I have spend the last 2 months haggling over when my appeal should be heard. They said it was in my interest to bring this back a stage which I can see may be the case but the face they are offering this makes me suspicious and if nothing else it is going to make the whole thing drag out that much longer.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Wagamama 15

At the Googleplex, free food is served to the greedy nerds who have come up with the concept of the "Google 15" to describe the number of pounds they acquire after feeding on the free food provided by its celebrity chef.

At Wagamama, where one of the few perks is a choice of the less expensive dishes on the menu (only managers may choose freely, as I noticed when "Managers Meals for a week" was mentioned as a reward for a waitress that was named by some unctuous customer who wrote to say how happy she was.

The reason for the increased girth? Almost everything on the menu is either deep fried or saturated in oil during cooking. Even the gyoza are deep fried! It gets worse: none of the ingredients are organic, and MSG and sugar are added to most of the sauces. In other words just like any other fast food. Not nice.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Fingerlickin bad

Today my station has been hijacked by Julian. This annoys me because the boss told me that unless I set up and run the station I will be sacked. So I inform Boss that J's presence is preventing me from preventing myself from getting fired. He ignores me. I have a feeling this is company management policy - I have seen it so often, not just towards me.

The other thing is that J seems quite ambitious and loves to proselytise his knowledge of everything wagamama. So I know I am in for a day of learning new egg sucking techniques. Predictably enough he orders me to do the worst job in the kitchen - flouring, egging and breadcrumbing semi-defrosted, foul smelling battery farmed chicken breasts. Fortunately I have worked out a technique for reducing the time needed to complete this task by about 75%, so even though I don't see it as my mission to trail-blaze efficient working techniques, this is a case of needs must.

I think J is a little disconcerted when I announce that I have coated 15 kilos of breasts in a quarter of the usual time expected, and of course he can't help but point out the minor imperfections. I used to think that if they could not find fault with your work they would invariably complain that it was not quick enough, but this time I have silenced my leader.

My "punishment" for completing the assignment early is to do the most dangerous job in the kitchen. This involves cutting away the inner flesh of peppers before making wafer slices to produce a salad garnish. The problem with this task is that it is difficult not to hold your hand in the path of the knife, so I am always a little wary of this. Still, I manage to complete the task without injury, but again I must have been too quick as J then tells me he wants another three cutting, which I find hard to believe as I have prepared enough already for about 200 salads.

Looking back the only way I can rationalise what happened next was that the combination of absurd supervision and the conflicting order to carry out these tasks without supervision made me so I angry I did not concentrate properly. I somehow managed to chop away the tip of my little finger, leaving the slice of flesh complete with the nail on the chopping board.

The usual procedures then went into place (no bandages available so I had to use a napkin). The manager had little choice but send me off for medical assistance, but insisted I go to a local doctor - presumably to keep the incident unrecorded in the health and safety logs. Not surprisingly the surgery forwarded me to A&E without even looking at the would, and after short wait I had a largish bandage as a sling to hold the finger up. Suitably dramatic I thought!

Maybe it was unreasonable to expect tea and sympathy on my return, but I appreciated a joke from one of the other chefs asking me if I had had a further accident that could explain the sling. Otherwise I sensed that all the managers were actually pretty angry about what I had done. I guess they resented the paperwork it created, and probably were pissed they had one less person to exploit that day.

The boss explained that I would be going on to SSP from that day, even though I had by now already "worked" over half my shift. He told me this was limited to £69 per week, which for anyone working full time on a decent wage would be pretty devastating, but for me it was only £10 less than my current wage, so I was not too upset.

Foolishly I managed to get my sling tangled with the uniform I placed in the laundry bin which is locked, so I had to go round all the managers to find one with a key that was willing to open it. When I found this man he claimed to be busy cooking and so kept me waiting 20 minutes during which time I was shouted at 3 times by different managers for loitering without purpose. One of them gave me this daggered look as if I had mortally upset her, which I thought unnecessary but consistent with the way that these simpletons get a bit too emotionally involved in their shit jobs.

In any case I was sent home without lunch, and told that the rota manager would call me to check when I would be fit to return - something I suspect they will deny - see next entry!..

Monday, April 11, 2005

New head chef threatens dismissal

Yesterday a new chef appeared and demanded my name. It was not till today when he called me out I discovered he is the new chief, although there are still two layers of management both above and below him. In a way it was nice to be able to discuss "career development" such as there is, but there were a couple of things he said that left an unsavoury taste. Firstly he told me that although he had not had a chance to evaluate my performance personally, he expected me to run the whole station from start to finish - which is actually what I have been trying to do from the start - but that if I did not do this then he would not hesitate to sack me.

This means that my job depends on the intermediate levels of management allowing me to do what I wanted to do if I am to keep this job, and I suspect that they will not give me much chance. For example today I was allowed to set up the station while the poisonous dwarf who normally runs the ramen station I am interested in was told to do my usual job which is easily the worst in the kitchen: coating semi-defrosted chicken breasts in egg, flour and panko. However after whinging about the job, and spending the entire morning completing ( I would have been given about half that time), she used her charms to get out of the prep area into the kitchen while I somehow got demoted back to prep.

The second grievance was that he alluded to negative reports from my previous managers. When I asked for an example he chose one that I could least relate to: that I forgot how to do stuff and had to be reminded. The problem is not so much remembering how to carry out menial tasks as the fact that every sous chef and chef has their own way of doing stuff and tend to impose this on you if it is not their way. I guess the root problem is that there is no manual for these tasks, but since there is no opportunity to raise this issue there is not much I can do. So much for the kaizen culture they claim to have adopted.

The great irony is that every time I get threatened with dismissal - and this is pretty frequent - is that this is actually a very attractive option for me. Not only are there many other similar jobs around, but they pay much more and I suspect they would come with much less disrespect. In any case I will soldier on and see if they will really carry out their threats. Perhaps they will if they can find a replacement, and rather ominously I saw a new hire arrive as my shift was completed.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Day 3 wagamama slavery continues

The morning is spent assisting the most miserable chef make preparations. Not only is he miserable, but exceedingly stupid, so despite the years he has devoted to wagamama he still has no idea how to perform the most basic tasks and yet he has been assigned to teach and supervise me. At least the supervision part he takes seriously, barking orders every five minutes. I think without saying that please would not be a difficult word to say, but when he tells me I am not working fast enough my thoughts and the language that accompany them become violent. Why can't these people know that they are being exploited, and that making an extra effort will never be rewarded?

I am also feeling the start of xenophobic feelings, since all the non-english staff are uniformly serious about their task and express themselves with gloomy faces which may be understandable considering the environment, do not serve to build morale generally.

I am looking for something truly scandalous, but so far the closest I have got is that my discovery of food past its use by date is greeted with a "so what?" by the head chef. Apparently food needs to be decomposing before it is considered fit for disposal.

Around midday I am given the worst job in the kitchen - enrobing thawing raw chicken breast in flour, egg and panko. Every 10 minutes someone will tell me that I am using the wrong techniques, and after half an hour the head asks me if I have finished. I think I am going at a fair pace, but there is a huge amount to get through: about 50 kilos of meat, 40 eggs, a bag of flour and a bin of panko. After four hours my hand is feeling numb from frost bite and looks similar to the breasts that are being coated, but I have finished.

My alleged slowness is reported to the next shift leader, and the next morning the head chef has heard and tells me I must work faster.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Wagamama decline to offer my mcjob

Unfortunately I was away when the refusal call came. For some reason I was surprised they could afford to turn me down even though I managed to create salads that are siimultaneously too big and too small, they had surprisingly found little else to find fault with me. According to the message left on my answering service there was another candidate they had not told me about who they felt was better - presumably he just the right size salad!

I can't understand how they can refuse me, after all I am charming, witty, urbane aswell as being capable of doing a semi-skilled job for almost nothing, infact literally for nothing during the 10 hour "training" ordeal.

I can't take no for an answer so after licking my wounds I decide to challenge their decision. When I call and ask for Bill I discover he has moved on. I hope he has been sacked but suspect he has gone off to humiliate the next bunch of aprentices wherever they open next. In any case I am lucky as his replacement sounds like he has the opposite temprament. Unfortunately he want me to go through another "training day" because they have "lost my file".

Back to square one.