Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin tells his 40,000 staff to go to work at Tesco amid coronavirus pandemic

Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin has told his 40,000 staff to work at Tesco during the coronavirus lockdown, after furious workers revealed they wouldn’t be getting their salaries until the end of April 

The popular pub chain was forced to close after Boris Johnson ordered people to stay at home in the battle against the killer pandemic and shut all non-essential businesses.

In a video message to staff, Martin revealed that Wetherspoon would be relying on a government grant to pay workers.

However, this money is not expected to be available until the end of April, leaving staff facing serious financial difficulties in paying rent, bills and buying groceries.

Furious workers have sent a letter to bosses demanding full pay, while also revealing that their bonuses have been stripped.

But Martin’s advice is for them to work at supermarkets during the pandemic. 

In his message, Martin says: ‘I’m very sorry about the situation that has occurred with our pubs. They’ve been shut as you know.

Tim Martin: The barrister who was called to the bar but swapped law to prop the bar up instead

Tim Martin, a trained barrister who was called to the Bar in 1979, joked that he quit law to make his £560million fortune propping up the bar instead. 

Beneath the Brexit bluster and pub banter is the shrewd founder of a £1.6billion pub and hotels group whose shares have gone up around 300 per cent over the past decade.

Martin, 64, has some 870 Wetherspoon pubs across the UK and Ireland. 

JD Wetherspoon’s sales for the year to July 26 are forecast to rise to £1.9billion, up from £1.8billion, with pre-tax profits broadly flat at around £100million. 

Martin played a leading role in campaigning for Brexit and as the City’s most outspoken critic of the EU, he donated £224,000 to the Brexit Party.

He also donated £50,000 to Boris Johnson’s Election campaign, when the Tories pledged to keep pubs open in neglected towns and villages outside London.  

He has been married to wife Felicity since 1982 with four children, aged between 28 and mid-30s. His father worked for Guinness and his grandfather for Allied Breweries. 

He qualified as a barrister in 1979 but took over his local North London pub six weeks before being called to the Bar and founded Wetherspoons. Martin named the company after his primary school teacher then added ‘JD’ because it was the nickname for Boss Hogg (Jefferson Davis Hogg) in the American TV series The Dukes Of Hazzard. 

‘Unprecedented in the last 40 years and it puts everyone in a terribly difficult position.

‘And I know you’re all sitting there wondering what the hell is happening and over the weekend I had lots of phonecalls with different people and we’re trying to sort it out as best we can in this highly unusual situation. 

‘I know that all our trade now has gone to supermarkets. Not only our trade, but the trade from cafés, leisure centres, restaurants etc.

‘So we have had lots of calls from supermarkets, Tesco alone want 20,000 people to join them. That’s half the amount of people who work in our pubs.

He then tells staff that it is up to them if they want to wait for government payments or if they want to go work at a supermarket.

‘If I’m honest, I could say you can get the furlough payments and stay at home,’ he added. 

‘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. 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. 

‘I’ve so much enjoyed talking to you in my pub crawls over the weeks and best of luck.’

Earlier this week, Conservative Party donor and Wetherspoon CEO Martin sparked fury as he said closing pubs was ‘over the top’ in spite of warnings from the government’s chief scientific adviser that they are a breeding ground for the virus.

Mr Martin told the BBC that a ‘sensible balance’ was for pubs to implement ‘social distancing’ measures, like no standing at the bar, using cards and sitting at separate tables. 

He sparked further outrage as he told Sky that supermarkets posed more of a danger than pubs. 

Mr Martin, 64, also said that he would take the opportunity to catch the coronavirus under the right conditions, adding: ‘If someone offered me the opportunity now to have it under supervised conditions, I think I’d probably take it because your chances are very, very good.’   

In a video message to staff, Martin revealed that Wetherspoon would be relying on a government grant to pay workers

In a video message to staff, Martin revealed that Wetherspoon would be relying on a government grant to pay workers

Tim Martin has urged Wetherspoon workers to get a job at Tesco amid the coronavirus pandemic

Tim Martin has urged Wetherspoon workers to get a job at Tesco amid the coronavirus pandemic

Mr Martin told Sky: ‘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.’  

Mr Martin also compared his chain of pubs to Parliament, where MPs are still sitting, though only those with questions were allowed into Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

‘Our main desire is that pubs should remain open, rather in the way that Parliament has remained open,’ he said.

‘You’d be aghast if every MP was sitting next to every other MP, but it’s right that it should stay open on a sensible basis.’

The government have since closed down all pubs, clubs, restaurants and non-essential businesses.  

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