Brassica: Pay your Workers Now

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN 7 OCTOBER 2018

Workers of the Dundee restaurant, Brassica, have walked out after being owed upwards of £20,000, including wages, tips and holiday pay, by their employer. For those on low incomes, non-payment of wages creates real crisis situations – children can’t be fed, rent can’t be paid and energy meters can’t be topped up. One staff member has already been threatened with eviction.

In stark contrast, one of the two owners of the restaurant, Dr Rami Sarraf, has been one of the top earning dentists in Scotland for years. Publicly available information shows that of the 197 NHS dentists in Tayside, both Rami Sarraf and his wife have more patients than anyone else, at a combined total over 16,000. This is around 5% of the entire patient population of Tayside! The dentist with the third highest amount of NHS patients has just 3,855. They have more patients than the bottom 40 dentists combined.

Sarraf has received £2,024,751 from the public purse over the past four years. The average expenses to income ratio for dentists in Scotland is 71.7%. This is a conservative estimate here given his particularly high earnings and a resulting financial leverage that will enable him to reduce expenses well below average. Nevertheless, based on this ratio, he earns an average of £146,288 per year from the NHS. This places him in the top 1% of earners in the UK. This does not include any supplementary income from lucrative private dental care or capital gains made from property or investments. Moreover, his wife also earns at least £76,000 per year from the NHS (though likely far more given they can share expenses). Again, this is before any supplementary income or capital gains. This places her easily in the top 2% of earners in the UK. Thus, the National Health Service, funded by us all, has clearly been particularly lucrative for the owner of Brassica.

The other director, Dea McGill, claims to have worked within the investment banking sector in London for over 20 years(1). Unsurprisingly her salary history is not public knowledge, but £150,000 is deemed a typical salary for those with significant experience in the investment banking industry. In The Courier (5 October 2018), McGill cited cash flow problems, but “promised staff would be paid as soon as money for wages is available.”

I can reveal right now where there is money for wages available for the 15 unpaid workers: in the bank accounts of Rami Sarraf and Dea McGill. Why should very low-paid workers have to suffer real hardship because of the poor business acumen of their employers, who continue to live a life of luxury? The failures of Brassica are those of its owners – not its workers. While this will have no material impact on the owners’ lives, they seem perfectly satisfied to potentially place 15 families in crisis for the paltry sum (to them) of £20,000. This is utterly reprehensible and Dundonians should consider whether they wish to patronise such an establishment when it inevitably reopens under new branding in order to avoid paying its debts.

(1) Source for this was an interview of Dea McGill by White Oak UK, an “alternative financier” who provided capital for Brassica and was listed on its website as a “success story”. Unsurprisingly, the interview has been unceremoniously removed from its website.

UPDATE:

Quelle surprise – Brassica is to be re-opened as “Brasserie Escocia“. A new name, but of course the same owner and of course the stolen wages remain unpaid.

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On a positive note, the workers in question have unionised with Unite Hospitality Dundee and will collectively seek immediate redress. They have my solidarity and that of every local trade unionist I have spoken to – all of whom are prepared to take the necessary action to ensure these stolen wages are paid. We await the lead of the workers themselves. But be assured that, if necessary, any prospective clientele of “Brasserie Escocia” will be asked directly whether they want to eat in a restaurant whose wealthy owners – enriched by the public purse – steal wages from some of the lowest earners in society. In which case, Rami Sarraf can be certain “Brasserie Escocia” will suffer the same fate as its predecessor.

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