Wetherspoon’s chairman Tim Martin today threatened the government with job losses if pubs are not opened as soon as possible, in a move which is a surprise to no one that has been paying attention.
Conservative donor Martin, who has made £50m from his shares in the company despite its first pre-tax loss since 1984, has expressed concern that the “great contribution” that his company has made to the tax kitty has been forgotten in order to save human lives from Covid-19.
The pub boss has often been wheeled out by the mainstream media to give his opinion on the issues of the day, perhaps because they see him as ‘authentic’ as a non-traditional Conservative voice because he maintains a regional accent despite his millions. This however seems to have come as some sort of coordinated assault on Covid plans by the hospitality industries upper echelons
He joins other bosses in using his some 37,000 workers as a bargaining chip. On Sunday, the CEO of the Young’s pub chain Patrick Dardis claimed that the government’s basis for closing pubs was on “unproven” science.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out his plan next Monday for a “roadmap” out of the winter lockdown, with hospitality seemingly low on the agenda, behind schools and non-essential shops. Scientists have argued that April, which most hospitality bosses including Martin have suggested would be a desirable opening time, would be premature.
A hospitality worker, who wanted to remain nameless, told Challenge “This is typical from Martin and his like. Have they asked about how we feel about returning to work? We all want a night out but 100,000 people are dead. It would do them well to be a bit more concerned with our safety”
Johnnie Hunter, General Secretary of the Young Communist League described Martin’s comments as “veiled threats” that should not lead to a “potentially dangerous” early opening of pubs.
He added, “Bosses and Britain’s capitalists don’t care about public health and saving lives and they don’t care about the same workers that built their businesses and made them rich. They would happily see a premature end to lockdowns if it would help their bottom line and get a few quid in the tills. They would happily throw tens of thousands of workers on the scrap heap just to pressure the government or prove their point.“
He noted that, “Wetherspoon’s isn’t in trouble. They’ve already received millions in government furlough funding. They make consistent profits as Martin proudly proclaims. Only last month they sold £50 million in new shares which is set to be used to buy new pubs across Britain.“
“As always, what we’re seeing here is private wealth dictating to the government. This has been the story of the pandemic. It’s not trade unions holding the government hostage – its bosses dictating the agenda to their Eton chums,”
He concluded, “There’s no democracy for Britain’s workers where it matters most – in the workplace. Every boss is a tyrant if they’re allowed to get away with it. The only way for workers to win is to come together, get organised and join a trade union in each and every workplace.”
Tom Flanagan, is a member of the YCL in Stirlingshire