Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin suggests his staff take jobs at Tesco's

Tim Martin pulls a pint alongside Boris Johnson at a London Wetherspoon pub last year. Now Martin has closed his pubs following the PM's direction (PA Images)
15:55pm, Tue 24 Mar 2020
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Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin has suggested his 40,000 staff go and work at Tesco's while his 900 pubs remain shut.

The Government has said it will pay 80 per cent of salary for workers at firms such as Wetherspoon affected by Covid-19.

In a video message to staff, Martin says: "I'm very sorry about the situation that has occurred with our pubs."

He described the Government's promise  as 'good news' - but said he believed they could be waiting weeks before they received any money.

Martin told staff 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. 

“That’s half the number of people who work in our pubs. If I’m honest, I say you can get the furlough payments and stay at home.

“If you’re offered a job at a supermarket, many of you will want to do that. If you think it’s a good idea, do it. I can completely understand it.

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“If you’ve worked for us before I promise you we will give you first preference if you want to come back.”

Mr Martin had originally said he would resist moves to close his pubs, describing the Government's advice as 'over the top'.

Labour MP Rachel Reeves said: "It is unacceptable that Wetherspoon's has refused to pay its 40,000 employees until it receives its Government loan - potentially in late April - after first refusing to lock down altogether.

"If bosses disregard employees' wellbeing then the Government should take tougher action to force compliance."

A spokesperson for Wetherspoons said: "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."