Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin urged his 40,000 staff to apply for jobs at Tesco after pubs across the country were forced to close due to coronavirus over the weekend.
In a video circulated to Wetherspoons staff, Martin announced:
I'm very sorry about the situation that has occurred with our pubs – they've been shut, as you know. Unprecedented in the last 40 years and it puts everyone in a terribly difficult position.
Martin did not confirm the employees had officially been laid off.
Remarkably, he then went on to urge Wetherspoons employees to apply for jobs at supermarkets across the UK:
So we have had lots of calls from supermarkets, Tesco alone wants 20,000 people to join them. That's half the amount of people who work in our pubs… 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.
Martin clarified that he wants to re-open as soon as possible and will rehire employees as a priority if they apply when Wetherspoons reopens:
If you've worked for us before I promise we will give you first preference if you want to come back. I completely understand if you don't want to wait around for us to reopen but deeply appreciate your work.
In response to the video, the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union released a joint statement with SpoonStrike – a collection of Wetherspoon employees – on social media on Monday (23 March)
It revealed employees would only be paid for the hours they worked up until Sunday (22 March) and would not get any further payments until Wetherspoons received an upcoming government grant, which could be as late as the end of April:
Support for the 40,000 staff uncertain about their futures began circulating on social media:
Just four days ago, Martin argued pubs should be able to stay open amidst the pandemic and the government’s measure to close all pubs was “over the top”.
Supermarkets are very, very crowded. Pubs are much less crowded. There’s hardly been any transmission of the virus within pubs, and I think it’s over the top to shut them. That’s a commercial view, but also a common sense view.
He also said (against all current advice) that he’d take the opportunity to catch the virus now “under supervised conditions” because “your chances are very, very good”.
Just to confirm, this is not what the government or medical workers suggest to do.