Row about pay and conditions sees vegan bar business targeted by ‘revolutionary’ union

A ROW over pay and working conditions has paralysed a Glasgow hospitality business, amidst an increasingly bitter confrontation with ‘revolutionary global union’ Industrial Workers of the World.

Saramago, a stand-alone vegan restaurant and bar within Sauchiehall St’s Centre for the Contemporary Arts (CCA), is in the spotlight after the dismissal of three staff at the start of March.

The IWW claims those staff were dismissed as an act of ‘union-busting’ after they had raised a grievance about staffing levels and over-work. IWW has since organised regular protests outside the CCA’s prominent Sauchiehall St location, and called for a boycott of the business.

In a statement published on social media, Saramago’s owners – Paul Smith and Claire Butler – have hit back at the ‘clearly libellous’ claims being made against them, and expressed concerns that their business and the jobs of all staff – the majority of whom are not taking part in the dispute – are being imperilled by IWW’s campaign.

They said: “No Saramago employee has been dismissed for being a member of a union, or for taking part in a union endorsed action.

“The current situation at Saramago – which management has been attempting to address for many months – has been significantly misrepresented in recent coverage with many of the claims being made clearly libellous.

“It is most important to point out that the grievances and tactics of the protesting group are not shared or supported by the majority of the Saramago staff,” stressed Smith and Butler. “This was not, as has been falsely reported, an attempt to union bust, or stifle legitimate concerns about working practices, but for breach of contract by stopping work, damaging the commercial trading of the business, and bringing the business into disrepute.

“We take the well-being of our staff and the service of our customers very seriously, and it is with those responsibilities in mind that we must act to safeguard the employment and the well-being of the majority of our current staff.

“Saramago has endured two fire closures, Covid and the economic plight of Sauchiehall Street. Throughout all of this we have stood by and supported our staff, as they are part of our community. We made no redundancies throughout any of this period.

“Our financial situation is increasingly perilous and we have made a net loss since Covid. Like much of the hospitality trade our chances of making it through the future look increasingly challenging.”

Saramago’s owners added that IWW ‘was not a recognised union in the UK’ or affiliated with the TUC.

“No TUC-affiliated union would endorse the action that took place as it breaks union strike guidelines.”

 An IWW spokesman said: “The IWW Clydeside branch has reached out to the Saramago owners who have yet to come to the negotiation table.”

IWW added: “We will not let Saramago hide behind its historic association with a liberal, left-wing crowd or its location in an arts venue that only a week ago screened films about the importance of trade-unionism.”