JD Wetherspoon ‘cannot commit to paying staff’ while pubs are shut

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Avoiding lay-offs: JDW chairman Tim Martin has said he hopes all workers will be able to return when pubs reopen
Avoiding lay-offs: JDW chairman Tim Martin has said he hopes all workers will be able to return when pubs reopen

Related tags: Coronavirus

JD Wetherspoon (JDW) has been criticised for saying it will defer payment of staff wages to a Government scheme that is not expected to start for weeks, with the pub company arguing its communication to employees has been misinterpreted.

The Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) criticised JDW for saying it would attempt to use the Government’s ‘furlough’ scheme – which pays up to 80% of employees’ wages – instead of continuing to pay staff as usual. 

Ian Hodson president of the BFAWU said: “[Tim Martin’s] selfish approach says unless the Government puts money into my bank account today, he’ll let the workers who have made him rich suffer.”

The pub giant said its communication to staff had been misinterpreted by the press and the union. It said it had made clear that staff would be paid this Friday for all their work carried out up until pubs were closed.

After that, it will use the ‘furlough’ scheme, which pays 80% of wages, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. Employers can top up salaries further if they choose to and fund the difference to make up the full salary but they are not obligated to. 

The details of this scheme are still being finalised by the Government and it is expected that it will be at least a month before any payments are received.

Supermarket suggestion

Chairman Tim Martin said JDW was encouraging staff to seek work in supermarkets and its aim was to ensure all staff were able to return to their roles once the pubs reopen.

He said: “Companies like Costa, owned by Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s, being owned by large multinationals, can afford to retain staff and commit to paying them, before details of the Government furlough scheme are published.

“However, they are in a minority in the pub and restaurant trade. 

“Most companies, including Wetherspoon, do not have the resources, while pubs are shut, to make this commitment and need to see details of the scheme in order to retain and pay staff, as the Government has sensibly requested, rather than instigating large-scale lay-offs.

“That may seem stark, but that’s the economic reality of the unprecedented situation in the UK today.”

JDW reported an operating profit of £76.6m in its latest financial update, for the 26 weeks ended 26 January 2020.

Retaining staff

Earlier today, JDW spokesperson Eddie Gershon said: “There has been a complete misinterpretation of what Wetherspoon said in a number of press reports this morning.

“As we understand it, tens of thousands of hospitality workers and others have already lost their jobs, but Wetherspoon is retaining all its employees, using the Government scheme for the purpose for which it is intended."

The union said they did not believe there had been a misinterpretation in the press with what JDW had told staff.

A JDW worker, who wished to remain anonymous, shared their thoughts through the union and said: “To be told the company won’t pay you until the Government scheme is enacted at the end of April is hard enough. I’ll be homeless in two weeks with no income. 

“Getting told it by Tim Martin, drink in one hand (in a video message to staff), ending with a half-hearted and sadistic ‘Good luck!’ is another thing all together. I feel so let down and so, so scared.”

Related topics: JD Wetherspoon

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