Following more than two weeks of backlash over its labor practices, Trillium Brewing Co. has changed its compensation structure for retail employees and increased their wages to between $15 and $18 an hour.
On Wednesday, Trillium co-founders JC and Esther Tetreault released a blog post detailing the actions the brewery has taken since an anonymous user posted to a Beer Advocate forum and said the brewery had lowered its hourly rate for retail staff from $8 to $5 an hour. (Trillium responded by reinstating the affected employees’ wages.) Now, the brewery is further increasing its hourly compensation for retail employees at the Canton and Fort Point locations, according to the blog post:
“We are raising the hourly rate our retail employees are paid to between $15 and $18 an hour, based on tenure and knowledge of our craft. Those who currently work for us will move to a minimum of between $16.00 and $17.50 per hour, based on tenure. Our employees already felt well compensated under our tip-based model. By increasing their hourly wages we provide them with a more predictable paycheck. Our customers still have the option to add a tip to recognize exceptional service.”
In an email to Boston.com, Esther said this wage increase, which went into effect Wednesday, impacts all 35 of Trillium’s retail employees, including 10 employees at the new Fort Point location. She said the changes in wage will not result in increased beer prices.
In an interview with The Boston Globe, however, the Tetreaults said the wage increase means they will slow down their brewery expansion plans in Connecticut, where they recently bought a farm in hopes of building a brewery and event space.
“We are still in [the] early stages of project planning and can evaluate a phased approach to building the agriculture program, brewery operation, and customer experience,” Esther told Boston.com.
The Tetreaults also wrote in the blog post that employees will now have the opportunity to increase their hourly rate after completing educational programs, and that the brewery is updating its annual bonus program to benefit new and longtime employees.
Esther told Boston.com that, while Trillium has “always had a tenure-based bonus system for our team that was paid annually, now each employee will have the opportunity to earn quarterly bonuses based on their individual performance as well as Trillium’s.”
Both the educational programs and new bonus program will launch in 2019.
In addition to lowering wages, the original allegations on the Beer Advocate forum also accused Trillium of improper quality control, namely adding liquor to kegs and filling growlers with beer from trub kegs. In their post, the Tetreaults said the brewery has high standards for quality:
“Regarding the quality of our beer, we hold our products to the same high standard. As a practice we do not add spirits to our beer, we do not market beers as barrel-aged if they do not spend time in barrels, and the beer we fill our growlers with is no different than our packaged beer. All of our beer is constantly monitored by our retail team, quality assurance lab, and production team.”
Esther told Boston.com that this experience has been a difficult one, but that going forward, she and her husband will ask for feedback more frequently instead of waiting for it to be shared.
“Our team has been very supportive in the last couple weeks,” she wrote. “Of course it’s frustrating and upsetting to have the company you work for be portrayed negatively or to have your feelings misrepresented by others. We expanded very quickly to open the restaurant and we know we could have communicated better to the team in preparation. We will be more conscious of sharing information in more timely and frequent messages for future plans.”