Barber bosses go berserk in Brighton wage battle

The bizarre confrontation saw two men, who have been accused of ripping off one of their staff in a wages dispute, hold up traffic while throwing an almighty tantrum involving smashed furniture, shirtless pushing and rolling on the floor as they demanded that the Solidarity Federation (SolFed) stop picketing them.

The owners of CJ Barbers on St James Street in Kemptown, Hamid Caram and Cyrus Shabini, attacked the protest, pulled down banners and threw what appeared to be their own furniture around in front of a stranded bus while shouting “you want the cash? Fuck off. I don’t pay.”

Caram and Shabini have spent the last two months refusing to engage with the anarcho-syndicalist union, according to SolFed, claiming that the arrangement they had with their former worker was “voluntary”.

However in an article explaining why they are campaigning, the ex-staffer explains:

“Before I started working at CJ Barbers I was desperate for work, desperate to find a stable career and trade I could rely on long-term. I could not afford private tuition, so to gain experience I was giving out free haircuts for the homeless on the streets of Brighton. It was while I was promoting this practice on St James Street that I was approached by a manager at CJ Barbers. After a trial I was told that they would train me if I worked as an unpaid apprentice for two months and after this I would be hired officially and paid a full salary. This sort of arrangement is illegal but is a far too common practice in the barbering trade. Because of the role’s illegality there could not possibly be a contract. I was desperate and overly-trusting, so naively I agreed.

“After beginning work I had a feeling that things weren’t right. I was not receiving the promised education and my time was totally consumed with busy-work. I would be constantly cleaning the shop and would be assigned P.A. work, such as planning and booking hotels and flights for the boss’s holiday. I mentioned to the managers that I thought that maybe I should find work elsewhere but I was assured, “Don’t give up! Just think – after a few weeks you’ll be on a full salary!” so I persevered.

“After two months I approached my boss and enquired about when I would be paid. I was told that they were pleased with my work and my first pay check would be in two weeks. It was after this pay day when I only received £100 that I told them I could no longer afford to work there. I was told there was no hard feelings but when I contacted the following week for a reference they refused to provide one – despite me working for two months for free and being told they were pleased with my work. I later found out they also lied about my progression and ability as a barber. I was told by CJ Barbers that I was nowhere near ready to cut hair. When I spoke with barbers in other shops I discovered this to be a lie used to keep me from leaving.

“I felt horrible about the whole situation. My trust and my vulnerable situation were totally exploited. I thought that these people had my best interests at heart but it was all a facade to use me for free labour until I caught on. This is why I approached SolFed who informed me of my workers’ rights. CJ’s did not come close to fulfilling the legal requirements needed to employ an apprentice or a volunteer – So I was in fact entitled to minimum wage for this period which would come to £2800. I have evidence to prove I worked for this entire period.”

In a statement, Brighton SolFed said:

This was a significant escalation of a now familiar tactic of CJ Barbers, which is to assault and attempt to intimidate picket lines. On the Saturday previous to this, Hamid assaulted a female member of Brighton SolFed who was outside of the shop.

Our dispute with CJ Barbers is in relation to a former worker who was paid £100 for two and a half months work. CJ Barbers have tried to claim that this was a “voluntary” arrangement, but as the worker explains in this article, CJ Barbers did not uphold their end of this (exploitative) deal, reneging on the promise of training and a job at the end of the voluntary period.

For this reason, we are demanding that the worker is paid the national minimum wage for the two-and-a-half months work he did, totalling £2,800. We offered to negotiate with CJ Barbers before opening this dispute, and have offered them on a weekly basis the opportunity to make a reasonable offer to open negotiations. Their only response has been further intimidation, asking for ‘one-to-one’ meetings with no offer of payment made.

Worker solidarity is stronger than bosses. We won’t be going anywhere until this worker gets paid.

An injury to one is an injury to all!

The next Brighton SolFed picket will be on June 29th from 11.15am.


More information on this dispute:

1. brightonsolfed.org.uk/brighton/no-work-without-pay-boycott-cj-barbers

2. brightonsolfed.org.uk/brighton/cj-barbers-dispute-business-threatens-to-blacklist-solfed-member

3. brightonsolfed.org.uk/brighton/i-train-people-for-free-because-thats-how-it-works-cj-barbers-owner-cyrus-shabani-admits-to

4. brightonsolfed.org.uk/brighton/i-was-desperate-for-work-desperate-to-find-a-stable-career-and-trade-i-could-rely-on-the-cj

5. brightonsolfed.org.uk/brighton/cj-barbers-intimidation-and-histrionics-fail-to-impress