Wetherspoons will receive the 80% government grant to cover its furloughed workers wages during lockdown. But the company, which announced pre-tax profits of £57.9 million for the six months covering the Christmas period, caused an uproar when it said on the 23rd of March that it would not be paying its 40,000 furloughed workers for the coming weeks until the government support had been received.
The announcement triggered a public outcry led by workers and the BFAW Union and caused the #BoycottWetherspoons to trend on Twitter. 95 MPs added their criticism, writing to the company’s owner Tim Martin to express their concern.
MP Olivia Blake, who coordinated the letter, and is Vice-Chair of the BFAWU Parliamentary group said: "JD Wetherspoon’s decision to let tens of thousands of workers go without money to pay their rent or feed their families is an utter disgrace. At this time of national crisis, everyone, including Tim Martin, needs to come together to put people and not profits first."
U-turn on letting workers go
The company has since done a U-turn and promised to pay wages weekly, in response to the criticism. However, employees say it is still unclear whether they will receive 100% pay.
The chain was forced to shut on the 20th March after Boris Johnson announced the closure of all pubs, bars, clubs, theatres and leisure facilities to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. The closure came just one day after owner Tim Martin said that shutting pubs could be an ‘over the top’ response to the crisis.
Wetherspoons owner, Tim Martin, initially recommended that staff sought work with Tesco, which has been hiring to cover growth in demand due to the pandemic, during the intermediary period.
Demanding 100% pay for workers
Workers have now launched a campaign with War On Want to ensure that they are paid in full, along with those employed by McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, and Taco Bell. All five companies are currently refusing to top of their workers’ income above the 80% government grant.
“I’m a single mother who works part-time,” a worker from Wetherspoons says. “I struggle to pay bills with full pay, 80% means I will either have to choose between bills or food for my child.”
“For those of us on low pay, 80% of wages are 20% more poverty,” BFAWU also states, “resulting in debt linked to rent and rising mental health issues.”