of 1,000 signatures
To Jeff Browning - Costa Retail and Operations Director
Dear Jeff Browning,
On Monday Jan 18th, you directly addressed us in an internal message to all Costa staff. We feel that your message deserved a response.
You have accused us of spreading misinformation about Costa. This is simply not the truth. Everything that we have shared, either in our petition or on social media, have been testimonials from Costa team members. These employees prefer to remain anonymous as they are scared that they will lose their job, having already received warnings from area management at head office’s request.
You mentioned a “Team Member Forum” where you’re getting feedback from staff. None of us nor the hundreds of other staff members we interact with daily, have ever heard of it. Suggesting you may not be getting accurate feedback. We’ve connected with thousands of Costa employees, across the whole country, from both Equity and Franchised stores. This is how we know that many staff are unhappy.
You say everyone is covered by flexi furlough. This is true. We all had to sign the “Consent” Form. If we did not sign the form, we would not be paid. That’s not consent, that’s blackmail. If everyone is covered by Flexi-furlough, why are we getting stories of clinically vulnerable people, people with covid symptoms and parents being stretched to their absolute limit, going to work? Because the flexi-furlough does not properly support them so they are pressured to work either financially or by management. Members with vulnerable family members are given no safety net, this may not be standard practice in the UK but those in retail during lockdown are in a unique position and require unique support. This is in no way a small minority of workers.
You say there is growing concern about our petition. Yet we do not call for a strike. We do not call for the closure of stores. We are asking for fairer treatment of workers. Many of us feel ignored by upper management. Demonstrated by the growing support for our petition. Many of us have no issues with remaining at work, or stores remaining open, as long as they are safe, serving only C&C and delivery. This is clearly achievable as you have rolled it out in Scotland (when forced by the government), but made a conscious decision not to go UK wide.
The ‘strict procedures’ that you mention do exist. We do not dispute this, although ‘strict’ may be a stretch. We know from personal experience they are not implemented consistently, or are not always practical as not all stores are the same. We have instances where procedures are only being used during a Costa Check.
Maintaining social distancing of 1m behind the bar at all times is impossible. In Wales that rule is meant to be 2m. Absurd to the point of parody for workers. This is not safe. It’s easy at head office to say something is possible, but those around you that you point out have worked in stores, are consciously ignoring the obvious.
The Government in England and Wales has recently issued a national campaign telling the public to be careful when going out for coffee. Suggesting that Costa, and other coffee companies, are complicit in the spread of COVID-19. By that, we as staff members are at risk.
You criticized our petition, but you are reconsidering the 50off deal. This was a point that we raise in the petition and has led to thousands of non-essential trips. You also claim to be addressing issues around furlough and face masks, both issues we raised. You can't accuse us of misinformation one second, then resolve issues we pointed out the next. It simply shows one of us is being misleading, and it has not been us.
Staff are concerned about Costa making us work in several different locations. The Government guidance is that we should not be mixing with people outside our own household. However we are regularly forced into going to different stores, and mixing with numerous people in close proximity. You say that because of the COVID measures that this is safe. But as we’ve talked about, these are not always in place, and it is obvious to say, the more people forced to mix, the more unnecessary risk is put on staff and the public.
Costa supposedly stands for “community,” but many of us feel a massive division growing in the way that you're approaching the pandemic. You have made it clear to us that we are simply disposable. Upper management sit comfortably in their offices and pretend that they know what it is like to be us. You have not stood with us behind the bar in this pandemic, or experienced the concerns we have. This is why a few short months ago, a very important staff role was suddenly “unimportant.” Thousands of Assistant Managers had to reapply for their jobs, and were rehired on a worse contract, only to be doing exactly the same job, and Maestros doing more than their contact dictates or pays them. You called this a ‘tough decision’ but did not have to face any of the real consequences.
Costa advertises team members to be the “heart” of their business. The core values claim to be warmth, courage, passion and trust. Yet, when we demonstrate these values, coming together as a group of concerned individuals, you dismiss us. These forums you speak of, can they be trusted to speak for all staff? If most staff haven’t heard of them they must be small-scale, yet when thousands of staff collectively bring forward concerns, they’re labelled ‘inaccurate statements’. It demonstrates that these values are so very important when marketing yourself to potential team members, but are lost the higher up the business you look.
Costa says that it’s safe for its team, but there are 13,000+ people who’ve signed our petition as staff and customers are concerned that we’re not safe. Clearly more needs to be done to alleviate their concerns and that starts with more and better support from the top.
If you would like to talk to us more, please contact us directly rather than sending company wide messages with the intention of intimidating us and others, we will be happy to open up a line of communication.
This letter will be published online publicly. By posting this letter online this allows all staff, ex-staff, and customers to see how we have responded to you, Jeff, we have nothing to hide.
Costa Employees and Customers Asking For Better Working Conditions For Everyone
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