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Tue 24th Mar 2020 - JD Wetherspoon denies ‘abandoning’ staff, further closures
JD Wetherspoon denies ‘abandoning’ staff: JD Wetherspoon has denied it is “abandoning” staff after it was accused of telling 43,000 workers they wouldn’t be paid during the coronavirus crisis until the government reimbursed their wages. Chairman and founder Tim Martin sent a video message to staff telling them they would no longer be paid after Friday (27 March) while the company worked out details of a “furlough” scheme under which the government will pay 80% of wages. National newspapers printed reactions such as Rachel Reeves MP, chairman of the business select committee, and Ian Hodson, president of the Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union, labelling it “unacceptable”. However, Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “There has been a complete misinterpretation of what Wetherspoon said in a number of press reports this morning. Wetherspoon sent a video by chairman Tim Martin, a letter from chief executive John Hutson and other information to all employees. In those communications it made clear all employees would get paid this Friday for all work carried out until the pubs shut. After that, the company would utilise the government ‘furlough’ scheme, which pays 80% of wages, details of which are in the course of being finalised between licensed trade representatives and the government at the present time. 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. Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said to employees in a video that supermarkets were urgently looking for staff, since all trade from pubs, restaurants and cafes had transferred to supermarkets in the last few days. Wetherspoon has had urgent calls from supermarkets asking for help in recruitment. Tesco alone urgently needs 20,000 staff, we understand. Tim Martin said in the video that staff who wanted to work for Tesco should do so and would be given first priority when Wetherspoon pubs reopened. Wetherspoon believes the actions it has taken are responsible and sensible in the difficult circumstances.” Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said: “Companies such as 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, don’t have the resources while pubs are shut to make this commitment and need to see details of the scheme 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. Our aim is to ensure all Wetherspoon staff are able to return to their roles once the pubs reopen. Meanwhile, as of today, all staff have been paid up to date.”

Caffe Nero, Bone Daddies, Dishoom and Chestnut close all sites: Caffe Nero is to close all its stores by Wednesday evening (25 March) in light of the coronavirus outbreak. The company switched to takeaway-only at the weekend and, although it could still offer the service under the government’s lock-down policy, it has decided to temporarily close operations until further notice. Founder and group chief executive Gerry Ford said: “Over the past 22 years we have dedicated ourselves to serve our communities but, in the face of this unprecedented challenge, we have to ensure the safety and well-being of our baristas, customers and communities, and as such we must close. Customers can still buy our coffee online to make at home and we will review our delivery and takeaway service when possible. We look forward to welcoming back our loyal customers when it is safe to do so.” Japanese ramen bar concept Bone Daddies has also closed its sites. The company said it would share its remaining food with staff and The Felix Project, which distributes food to those who need it most.  It stated: “We held out as long as we could but it’s time to do what’s right for everyone and close the doors completely for a while.” Dishoom founders Shamil and Kavi Thakrar told customers: “Last week’s decision to close the restaurants to dining guests and postpone the launch of Dishoom Birmingham was difficult and deeply sad for all of us. After a whirlwind weekend, things have changed again and we arrived at the decision to halt all collection and delivery from our restaurants to send our team home to stay safe and well with their loved ones.” Meanwhile, East Anglia-based The Chestnut Group has also closed all its sites but is taking reservations for 1 July onwards. A spokeswoman said: “This is not goodbye from us. It is see you again soon, where we look forward to celebrating with you at the mother of all opening parties!”

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