Wetherspoons boss forced into U-turn after telling staff to go and get a job at Tesco because he couldn’t afford to pay them
Wetherspoons was forced into an embarrassing U-turn over staff pay after close to 100 MPs intervened.
On Tuesday the pub group, which turns over £1.8billion a year, told 43,000 staff it could not afford to pay them for the next five weeks, suggesting they could work for Tesco in the meantime.
But yesterday it said workers would receive 80 per cent of their pay while the pubs were shut, in line with the Government’s jobs retention scheme.
Anger: Graffiti sprayed over the wall at a Wetherspoons pub in Crystal Palace, South London, after boss Tim Martin said he could not afford to pay his 43,000 workers
The pay handed out to staff falls short of promises made by other firms, who have said they will top up their staff’s pay to 100 per cent during the nationwide lockdown.
The move came after 95 MPs wrote a letter to Wetherspoons’ millionaire founder Tim Martin telling him he ‘had fallen short in supporting his workers in a time of crisis’, and asking him to ‘serve his country’.
Rachel Reeves, chairman of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, also raised ‘deep concerns’ over the company’s treatment of workers.
Wetherspoons had hoped to wait until the end of April when the Government is expected to pay wage subsidies to businesses who have shut down.
Unions castigated the ‘shocking and selfish’ move and said some staff would be left homeless.
The company was facing another storm last night as it told suppliers they will not be paid until after Wetherspoons’ pubs reopen – even for stock which has already been delivered.
In an email, Martin, 64, said: ‘We understand that this puts significant pressure on our suppliers, but we are kindly asking for your assistance during this very difficult period.’
Food suppliers have seen their incomes evaporate since pubs, restaurants and hotels were ordered to shut their doors last Friday.
The move could prove dire for some as Wetherspoons is the UK’s largest pub group and likely to be a key client for many. The company later added that it was willing to ‘discuss individual circumstances’.
The industry is in crisis with many tens of thousands of jobs already feared to be lost as revenue falls.
Bars, restaurants and pubs have sought to slash costs by postponing capital expenditure, negotiating with landlords and reducing staff hours.
The Government’s wage subsidy guarantees staff receive 80 per cent of their wages, up to £2,500-amonth, if they are temporarily laid off – or ‘furloughed’.
Pubs also benefit from the 12- month business rates holiday and the deferral of VAT payments for three months.
- Primark yesterday refused to pay £33million in rent to landlords, joining the likes of Burger King, after closing its UK stores due to the coronavirus outbreak.