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Workers at Premier Inn owner protest at AGM against plans to cut 1,500 jobs

<span>Workers at Whitbread, which owns Premier Inn, protested at the annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday against its plans to cut 1,500 jobs. </span><span>Photograph: Supplied</span>
Workers at Whitbread, which owns Premier Inn, protested at the annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday against its plans to cut 1,500 jobs. Photograph: Supplied

Workers demonstrated at Premier Inn owner Whitbread’s annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday over plans to cut 1,500 jobs amid rising profits.

The employees of restaurants including Brewers Fayre, Table Table and Beefeater protested outside the company’s investor meeting in Dunstable, Bedfordshire on Tuesday and union activists asked about the job cuts and pay inside the meeting.

The Unite union has written to Whitbread saying it was considering launching employment tribunal claims for unfair dismissal over the cuts.

The union, which is not formally recognised by Whitbread but says it represents hundreds of the people who may lose their jobs, claims that a statutory 45-day consultation with those affected, which kicked off in late April, has not been conducted in a “genuine or meaningful way”.

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It says there is no evidence that Whitbread has considered alternatives to redundancy despite the company reporting a 36% rise in underlying profit to £561m.

One Whitbread worker, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “We are still only being drip-fed information with little to no time to process or evaluate options.”

Several workers who live in accommodation linked to their job have been told they will be served with eviction notices in July and August, when the bulk of redundancies are expected to be implemented.

Whitbread announced the cuts in April, while simultaneously reporting a 36% rise in profits to £561m and raising its final dividend for each share by 26% to 62.9p.

Sharon Graham, the general secretary of Unite, said: “Rarely is a company so shameless as to celebrate leaping profits and dividends by announcing mass job cuts.

“But generating runaway profits while trampling workers is business as usual for Whitbread. This is a firm that refuses to pay the real living wage and does not even provide company sick pay for its underpaid and overworked staff.”

On Tuesday, Whitbread said sales rose 1% to £739m in the three months to 30 May, driven by improved trading in the UK and Germany.

Accommodation revenues were up 15% but the company said food and beverage sales fell 1% as strong uptake of breakfasts from hotel guests was offset by softer trading in its branded restaurants – many of which it is aiming to close.

Dominic Paul, the chief executive of Whitbread, said the company’s plan to “optimise food and beverage at a number of sites” and add 3,500 hotel rooms in the UK “is on track and will increase our momentum to deliver long-term profitable growth”.

Whitbread has said the restaurants it was closing were loss-making and its profit rise came from its hotels business. It has said it did not accept the union’s allegations, and had “a comprehensive and transparent collective consultation process” in place.