Sunday, 26 May 2013

Pay up, Cains!

Cains workers demonstrate outside Dr Duncans in Liverpool
Cains Brewery in Liverpool is looking ever more disreputable as we learn precisely how production is being ended at the Parliament Street site (I've previously written about the suspension of brewing here). Thirty eight workers were told by phone that they were to lose their jobs and were offered neither the money owed them since the Dusanj brothers closed the brewery, nor any redundancy or holiday pay; some had worked for Cains for 20 years. Managing director Sudarghara Dusanj told them to apply to the government’s Redundancy Payment Scheme, but this usually only pays redundant workers when a company has actually failed. 

Their union, Unite, organised a demonstration outside Dr Duncan's, a Cains' pub in the city centre, to make the public aware of what was going on and to urge drinkers to boycott the company's beers until the workers had received what they are owed.  

Franny Joyce, a Unite regional officer, said: “The aim was to take our fight to the streets of Merseyside to explain what’s going on and ask people to support us. We achieved a further goal, because due to our protest they closed their flagship pub, Doctor Duncan’s. We didn't get one negative response from the public to our requests for support.”

Cains argues that it has had to suspend brewing due to an “extremely competitive and difficult trading environment”, especially after it had lost key contract work. The owners say brewing will resume on the site as long as they get planning permission for their £50 million brewery village development (I've written about that here). One factor they don't mention is that their sales of real ale have been in decline for a while because the beer has become utterly mediocre with little resemblance to how it used to be. The responsibility for this decline rests not with the workforce, but with the use of cheap ingredients to cut costs, a management decision. So bad is it that one of Cains' own pubs in the city centre stopped selling Cains beers several years ago.

All I can say is that Cains just keeps getting worse. Other people's jobs are something that this company seems to regard just as commodities to be used and discarded at will, and they've done it before: the reverse takeover of Honeycombe Leisure, which went pear-shaped in 2008, resulted in quite a few licensees losing their livelihoods and homes. 

The question Cains management should be asking themselves is this: if they do get the go-ahead for their brewery village plan and they manage to restart brewing on the site, will anyone be interested? With repeated examples of bad business practice by the two brothers who own the brewery, accompanied by the decline in the quality of their products, the very name of Cains is in danger of becoming a liability. In the meantime, the dole queues in Liverpool have grown that bit longer.

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