Unite, which represents licenced house managers and hospitality workers, called today (17 March) for the establishment of a Covid-19 task force for the hospitality sector and to also implement a five-point action plan to support the thousands of workers across the UK whose livelihoods are at risk.
The call was sparked after Boris Johnson’s advised the public to stay away from pubs, bars and restaurants.
Unite national officer for the food and drink industry Joe Clarke said: “We are very concerned about the Prime Minister’s advice to stay away from pubs, restaurants and theatres without announcing at the same time a contingency package, including financial support, for staff who may be laid off without any arrangements for their salary to be paid.
“This could have a major adverse impact of their ability to pay mortgages and rent and provide for their families.”
Unite said there was an urgent need for a cross-party working group with the representatives from the UK Government, Scottish government, trade unions, and the trade bodies, UKHospitality and the Scottish Tourism Alliance.
Unite warned that it would be the “death knell” for many outlets, unless there is a comprehensive financial support package for the thousands of workers who could lose their livelihoods.
Clarke continued: “We fully understand the precarious times we live in with the spread of coronavirus, but it is not enough to be advising the public to stay away from pubs and restaurants where we have many members on low pay.
“This may, ultimately, result in those workers been laid off with only five days’ lay-off pay under current arrangements.
“This will mean they then have to wait five weeks for universal credit, which is completely unacceptable. If people are to get through this difficult time, they need support from Government and considerably more support than that offered currently.”
All the onus
He added: “By only advising people to stay away from pubs and restaurants, it puts all the onus on the owners who won’t have recourse to claim from their insurance policies.
“The Government should step in more forcibly to provide a financial support system, otherwise it could herald the death knell for many well-loved pubs and restaurants.”
Unite officer with national responsibility for hospitality Dave Turnbull said: “The hospitality industry is under grave threat and that’s why we are calling today for this task force to be set up to take urgent action to protect workers in a sector that is a major generator of wealth for the economy.
“It can’t be sacrificed and the workers must be protected during this period.”