JD Wetherspoon has issued a spirited defence of its treatment of workers ahead of today’s strike at two of its pubs.

JDW staff at the Bright Helm and Post & Telegraph in Brighton will picket over demands for a £10-per-wage in the first industrial action the company has ever faced, organised by the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union.

It coincides with strikes at McDonald’s and TGI Fridays over the same issue and UberEats riders, who want a £5 per delivery rate.

Responding to the strike JDW reiterated its announcement from September that it had increased pay rates by £20m in the year ended July 2018, and that they would increase by a further £27m this year.

Last year, JDW also awarded bonuses and free shares to employees of £43m, equivalent to 51% of net profits. £35.3m of that was paid to pub employees.

Wetherspoon has 38,384 employees. 10,508 are shareholders in the company. The average shareholding is 385 shares.

In total, JDW has awarded 3.7 million shares to employees since 2004 – 13% of the company’s share capital today.

Wetherspoon provides other benefits : for example, 50% food discount on duty and 20 per cent food and drink discount off duty.

Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said:“ Wetherspoon intends to increase pay in real terms in most years, subject to economic conditions, as we have tried to do in the past.

“Everyone in the pub and restaurant industry works very hard and the late and early hours are extremely demanding.

“The people who work in the business are our most valuable asset.

“It is understandable that there is pressure on pay with low unemployment and a housing shortage.

“However, bonuses, free shares and other benefits should be taken into account in assessing pay.

“Wetherspoon is also a major taxpayer- about 43 per cent of the price of a pint or a meal goes in taxes, including VAT, excise duty, business rates, climate change levies and so on.

“Wetherspoon paid total taxes last year of £729 million - nearly one thousandth of all government income . This equates to an average of £825,000 of taxes per pub (please see appendix 1 below).

“I don’t think it would benefit employees overall if, as some suggest, Wetherspoon ended bonuses, free shares and other benefits, and increased the basic rate of pay.

“It’s easy to be cynical about business , but companies like McDonalds, TGI Fridays and thousands of other individuals and businesses make a big contribution to the economy, and provide valuable work and experience for many people.”