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A chef has penned a lengthy open letter in reponse to claims he is using unpaid trial workers to fill labour gaps at his restaurant.
Mark Greenaway posted the letter on Facebook after being accused by Scottish trade union group Better Than Zero of using trial shifts “to cover busy periods and use desperate young workers as a free cleaning service,” at his eponymous Edinburgh restaurant, according to The Caterer. The restaurant was recently voted the 15th best in the UK outside London by Square Meal readers.
The group said they “were sent a tip off about working practices at Mark Greenaway’s while we were gathering info on unpaid trial shifts,” and would be taking “direct action” against the chef unless he made a public commitment to pay trial workers. It's unclear what that direct action would involve. In a Facebook post, Better Than Zero claimed: "We have heard from many sources (past and present employees) that [Greenaway] brings in between more than three trial shifts *per day* to cover busy periods."
Greenaway categorically denies the claims, stating: "I can assure everyone that if successful in securing the job then yes they do get paid for their trial. We do not and never have done this to get free labour or to fill a labour gap."
He goes on to lay out the reasons why unpaid trials, which are legal, in his opinion work for both restaurants and chefs and front of house staff, in the response posted on his Facebook page:
"Chef trials typically last four hours, this for me is to test their ability carrying out simple tasks before service, we look at how they present themselves, have they turned up with a full set of whites (I ask them to in the email exchanges, but you would be surprised the amount that don’t) , appropriate shoes, do they address the kitchen properly, do they wander around chewing gum, not really engaging with the team or are they super keen wanting to get involved, sleeves rolled up and ready to prove themselves and skillset to the team and I. During service however they stand at the passé with me and look at how the kitchen runs, how we cook and plate everything and generally get a feel of the kitchen and the food we create. It is as much for the candidate to see our operation as it us for us to see them...
"In order for me to pay the candidate for a trial, I need them to fill in all the relevant paperwork, give it over to my accountant, process all of their details and pay them through the banking system. This would cost more than the hours the candidate was due."
Read the letter in full below.