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GREEDY bosses are refusing to pay laid-off workers despite government pledges to make public cash available for their wages, with one millionaire boss asking for the funds upfront.
Tim Martin, the wealthy Wetherspoon pubs magnate, sent more than 40,000 laid-off staff a video of himself enjoying a drink to tell them that their wages had been stopped, it was revealed today.
VID PART 2 pic.twitter.com/i1xlBUar0h
— Jack Reid (@Dittomoogle) March 23, 2020
In the video, Mr Martin suggests that the workers might consider applying for a job at Tesco rather than “wait around for us to reopen.”
After citing the “good news” that the government has offered to underwrite wages, he suggests that there may be “delays” to wage payments as he waits for government cash to be released to the company first, which may not be until the end of April.
The Bakers, Food & Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), which represents Wetherspoon workers, said that Mr Martin’s conduct has been “shocking.”
The union’s president Ian Hodson said: “[Workers] need to pay rent, buy food and — because of the low wages [Mr Martin has] always paid them — will not have savings to depend upon.
“His selfish approach says that, unless the government puts money into [his] bank account today, he’ll let the workers who have made him rich suffer. It is completely unacceptable.
“This country will not forget the way in which employers have treated their staff during this crisis. Now is the time for all workers to come together and oppose greedy inaction by millionaire bosses.”
A Wetherspoon worker, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “To be told the company won’t pay you until the government grant is enacted at the end of April is hard enough.
“I’ll be homeless in two weeks with no income. Getting told [this] by Tim Martin, drink in one hand, ending with a half-hearted and sadistic ‘good luck!’ is another thing altogether.
“I feel so let down and so, so scared.”
Business, energy & industrial strategy select committee chairwoman Rachel Reeves branded the move “unacceptable.”
“If bosses disregard employees’ wellbeing then government should take tougher action to force compliance,” the Labour MP said.
Wetherspoon said that it believes its actions “are responsible and sensible in the difficult circumstances.”
Meanwhile, Easyjet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou called for widespread sackings at his airline just days after he received a £60 million dividend — one third of a £174m payout to shareholders.
The company is also seeking the new government funding to help it through the coronavirus crisis.
Elsewhere, general union GMB said that Amazon workers were “petrified” of being infected with Covid-19 after being left to work in packed warehouses without hand sanitiser or personal protection equipment.
Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley was forced today to U-turn on his intention to keep stores open, having faced a backlash over claims that selling sporting and fitness equipment made the company a vital asset.
But the billionaire is keeping his company’s warehouses open, despite staff saying that it is impossible for them to operate at the recommended two-metre distance from other workers.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said that Mr Martin and Mr Ashley were “showing their true colours and treating people like disposable labour.”
“This type of behaviour is shameful,” she said.
“Unions will be on the lookout for it. Britain is better than this.”
Supermarket chain Sainsbury’s will close its Argos stores and redeploy staff to its food outlets.
Shopworkers’ union Usdaw has called for guarantees that the Argos workers’ wages and hours will not be adversely affected.
Bosses at retail chain Wilko announced that plans to slash sick pay for tens of thousands of workers will be put on hold until the coronavirus crisis is over. General union GMB is campaigning against the cuts.
And the University of Portsmouth suspended the sacking of eight of the 13 staff in its English literature department amid the Covid-19 crisis.
University & College Union general secretary Jo Grady said that the proposed lay-offs flew in the face of a pledge by the university to support staff and students and for people to pull together and support one another.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey called today for urgent government financial protection for workers.
“Confused messages and lack of financial support are at odds with the urgency of this health emergency. Workers need clear direction and protection from government now,” he said.
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