Union calls return of furlough and better sick pay to protect hospitality jobs this winter
A union has called for the return of furlough and further financial support to protect thousands of jobs in the hospitality industry as it faces another challenging winter.
It comes after First Minister Mark Drakeford announced that nightclubs across Wales will close on December 27 in a bid to curb the spread of the omicron variant.
Social distancing measures will also be reintroduced in shops and those who can work from home are being urged to do so.
Although there are no formal restrictions in place on the hospitality industry, calls from both Welsh and UK Government to reduce social contacts in the run up to Christmas and concern about the new covid variant has led to a mass of cancellations for pubs and restaurants in what is their busiest time of the year.
Unite Hospitality reps and frontline workers are now calling on the urgent reinstatement of the furlough scheme and sick pay at 100 per cent of the living wage from the UK Government.
The union is also calling on the Welsh Government to increase pressure on UK ministers to reinstate furlough to help support the industry over the festive period.
In a statement Unite Hospitality said: “With the new variant spreading much more rapidly, we not only face infection, serious illness, and isolation from friends and loved ones over the festive period, but the collapse of our industry and the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs across the UK.
“Without the furlough scheme, businesses in the sector face having to push ahead with events that risk transmitting this virulent strain to thousands of people who come together from different places and walks of life to enjoy themselves, or cancelling the scheduled events and closing our doors.
“Whilst this might be a disappointment to our customers, it is also sure to result in the financial decimation of our already precarious sector, with hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk, further plunging the nearly 10 per cent of the British workforce that make up the sector into unemployment or at the very least unsustainable financial turmoil, creating additional strain on the national welfare system, housing and mental health services when most of these are already at breaking point.
“The truth is that even if businesses stay open without the financial support required to close, customer confidence is already impacted to the extent that bookings and ticket sales have fallen off a cliff in the last week or two. In an industry that relies on reaching a certain operational capacity to hit profitable margins, this drop off in custom is a death sentence for many businesses, and the careers of those that work in them.
“The lack of certainty will have nearly as devastating an impact as forced closure without furlough.
“In Wales we will be calling on the Welsh Government to put pressure on the UK Government to ensure that the furlough scheme is reinstated. We will also be seeking assurances that any grants offered in future ensure that worker’s terms and conditions are protected and more jobs are created.”
Last week the Welsh Government announced that up to £60m will be available to support businesses affected by the new restrictions.
However speaking at a Welsh Government press conference on Friday (17 December) the first minister called for further support from the UK Government – with a ‘doubling’ of already announced ‘new’ funding – although with one First Minister , Nicola Sturgeon, “Seeking confirmation” if the further money was ‘additional’ or ‘if it has to be repaid’
On Friday FM Mark Drakeford said of hospitality support in Wales: “Financial support of up to £60 million will now be newly made available to businesses materially affected by these new restrictions.
“We’re working with partners about how that support can most effectively be delivered and further details about the practicalities of it will be available as quickly as possible.
“But our ability to provide and sustain longer term economic support during this new wave of what is an ongoing public health emergency is severely constrained by the current position of the UK Treasury and its refusal to open vital support schemes such as furlough.
“These schemes should be available for all nations when they are needed and not just at the point when restrictions are introduced in England.
“We have never been able to cover the cost of wages of people whose livelihoods are temporarily interrupted by actions that are necessary to protect people from coronavirus.
“That has always been the responsibility of the UK Government through the furlough scheme and the self employed scheme that they have mounted.
“If we are facing a wave as described to us, not just by our own chief medical officer but by the chief scientific officer and chief Medical Officer for the UK Government, then I think there is a responsibility on the UK Treasury to come forward and make it clear that they will be support for people if those public health measures are needed.” Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com