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Starbucks sinks to new low

Starbucks. The multinational corporation whose philosophy when suffering an out and out public relations disaster seems to be to keep digging and hire in a few JCB’s to dive even deeper.

With its public image in tatters after its systematic tax avoidance schemes came to light, the company is now brazenly trying to force workers into a highly dubious new set of contractual terms.

The Starbucks website claims “We’ve always believed that businesses should have a positive impact on the communities they serve.” It also includes sections named ‘Environment’, ‘Ethical Sourcing’, ‘Wellness’, ‘Diversity’ and the “Starbucks Global Responsibility Report”.

And yet on the same day that the House of Commons' public accounts committee described the US coffee chain's tax avoidance practices "immoral", employees were pressured into agreeing to new employment terms, which include the abolition of paid 30-minute lunch breaks and paid sick leave for the first day of illness. Cash bonuses for becoming manager or partner of the year are being replaced with a plaque and the bonus scheme for women returning after they have had a baby has gone because "it is not considered a valued benefit". Many will also see their pay frozen.

The sorry truth is that even now, the company pays barely more than the minimum wage and seems to believe that basic ethics like paying the voluntary but strongly suggested ‘living wage’ for workers based in London are beneath them.

This all comes as the company tries to address the issues raised by the Parliamentary investigation into their tax avoidance practices, leaving many wondering whether Starbucks were planning to make any increased tax payout come directly from employees pockets rather than those of shareholders.

This was denied by a spokeswoman for the multi-national. "That happened throughout the summer," she said. "It is entirely unrelated to the story that we are in discussions with HM Revenue and Customs and the Treasury." She must be mystified by the scepticism greeting anything the fim has to say.

The GMB union staged a protest outside a West London branch of the US chain, which employs 8,500 people in the UK.

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