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When pubs reopen after coronavirus lockdown, a Wetherspoon boycott is least Tim Martin deserves

PUBLISHED: 09:19 26 March 2020 | UPDATED: 09:19 26 March 2020

A person walks by graffiti on a JD Wetherspoon pub in Crystal Palace, south London

A person walks by graffiti on a JD Wetherspoon pub in Crystal Palace, south London

There are heroes and zeros in this fight against coronavirus. Rachel Moore says Tim Martin fits in to the latter catergory

Chairman of JD Wetherspoon Tim MartinChairman of JD Wetherspoon Tim Martin

Tim Martin, the purveyor of cheap food and even cheaper drink, loved by students and the thrifty, has managed to make himself the most loathed person in coronavirus history.

From hero to villain in the time it took Boris to say “shut now”, everyone who once loved a ‘Spoons bargain beer and burger was calling for multi-millionaire Martin’s head when he chucked out all his JD Wetherspoon staff and told them to get jobs at Tesco.

My bet is when life resumes, and pubs open, the Wetherspoon bar will be about as popular 
as the Sun in Liverpool and Martin can lick his wounds with Richard Branson, whose Virgin air staff were put on eight weeks’ unpaid leave.

With £57.9 million in profits last year, Martin might not worry. After all, he’s happy for a reputation for selling 9am beers to the desperate.

But one of the many lessons this extraordinary situation we are living in is about how businesses treat their staff, and the value they put on individuals.

The 64-year-old announced his intention to keep all his bars open throughout the pandemic claiming there had been “hardly any transmission of the virus within pubs” – a virologist too, to add to his skills? – and said he would take the opportunity to catch the coronavirus under the right conditions.

When the prime minister ordered all pubs to close, he showed 43,000 staff the door by video message, despite a government measure to pay 80pc of staff salaries if businesses that could not keep on their staff “furloughed” them – lay them off temporarily – and he refused.

There were 20,000-odd jobs in Tesco as delivery drivers, shelf stackers or on the shop floor they could do instead, he said. Government money would take too long, he said

I hope they did head to Tesco and will be happier, better treated and never go back.

Often it’s not what you say but how you say it that has the most impact. Attitude and treatment of other speaks volumes, and I hope this will be what people remember when this is all over, more than their cheap breakfasts.

A boycott of his pubs is the 
least he deserves to show that people do matter, and society judges a person who has done well by how he or she treats those who helped them do that.

And who would want to work for the chain now if that is how they are valued?

The arrogant employers see their low-paid workers as ten-a-penny, replaceable commodities.

The good bosses see staff as an investment to nurture and bring value to their business. They are the ones today fighting tooth and nail to keep them on the team and committed to their roles once life starts again.

No one deserves to have buildings defaced – “pay your staff” was sprayed all over a Wetherspoons in Crystal Palace.

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But workers never deserve to be treated like faceless units in their time of need. Employers should stand by their staff and understand their needs.

Meanwhile, as Martin and Branson count their savings, M&S has kickstarted the Neighbourly Community Fund to support people most impacted by Covid-19.

The M&S “family” – including M&S Bank and M&S Energy – is supporting the fund, to help mobilise more than 1000 local charities to support the most vulnerable members of society immediately.

It is also supporting the National Emergencies Trust Campaign with a donation to help galvanise the national efforts now under way.

We must remember how who treated people well and who didn’t when this is all over and shun and invest in them accordingly.

EVICTION:

When Boris made his “all pubs must close tonight” announcement, we were in one – looking forward to the second night of our mini break, watching the daily update on the TV in our room after a bracing day’s walking along the coast.

We were “evicted” in the nicest possible way from our dog-friendly room at the wonderful Globe Inn in Wells (we will be back) to drive home to cook dinner from our freezer rather than dining from its tasty bar menu.

A very disgruntled couple from up north weren’t so obliging to get packed up and head off, complaining very loudly that they were being thrown out on to the street and how the rules should be bent for them, because, errr, they were them.

I’m still wondering whether they staged a sit in.

PRIDE IN ALL WORKERS:

Who would have thought that delivery people would be the heroes of the piece – keeping supermarkets stocked, delivering meals, prescriptions, gifts and vital equipment?

A close second to the NHS superstars, food retail and delivery workers deserve gongs, enduring contact with thousands of people every day and keeping up with demand,

I know two people, both self-employed, whose pipeline of work dried up overnight, who are now working in supermarkets to keep cash flowing.

One wrote on social media that he never thought he would have to write that he was stacking shelves for a living. He received a virtual standing ovation.

No one should be too proud to do any job to earn their own living, to play their part in a crisis and provide a service. Diversifying during a crisis is to be respected, and can be life-changing.

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