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Wetherspoons set to cut 130 staff at its head office as Covid jobs bloodbath continues

Wetherspoon has written to its head office staff to say that nearly a third of them risk losing their jobs amid a round of cuts at the pub chain.

The company said that 110 to 130 of the 417 roles in its head office could be axed as it scales back its expansion.

Chief executive John Hutson said that all head office staff, including those who are regionally based, will be affected.

Those in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will escape the cuts.

‘The decision is mainly a result of a downturn in trade in the pub and restaurant industry generally, a reduction in the company’s rate of expansion and a reduction in the number of pubs operated from 955 in 2015 to 873 today,’ he said in a statement on Thursday morning.

He said Wetherspoon would work with staff who want to take voluntary redundancy, early retirement, or reduce their working hours in order to reduce the number of people it has to fire.

‘The company will listen to suggestions from staff to help avoid or reduce the number of compulsory redundancies which are required,’ he said.

Bosses will also be open to unpaid absences such as sabbaticals and study leave, if staff want to take them.

‘Wetherspoon is proposing to collectively consult with employees through an employment representative committee, which will be established for this purpose.’

Staff who work in the company’s 873 pubs will not be impacted by the cuts.

Mr Hutson added: ‘We should emphasise that no firm decisions have been made at this stage.’

‘All head office employees will be affected by the process, with the exception of those working directly in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.’

Wetherspoons pubs reopened their doors on July 4 when lockdown restrictions were eased.

The company put strict measures in place in a bid to reduce risk for staff and customers including one-way systems, screens at tills and staff wearing gloves and masks.

However, some customers vowed to boycott the company due to the way boss Tim Martin treated his staff during the lockdown.

The businessman had told his 43,000 workers they could get a job at a supermarket and they would not be paid until the Government’s furlough scheme kicked in.

But the outspoken Brexiteer, 65, U-turned after pressure from a huge public backlash.

The news follows a series of major job losses in recent weeks and months as businesses take stock of the damage caused by the coronavirus crisis. 

Already this week big names such as WH Smith, Dixons Carphone, Pizza Express, Hays Travel and DW Sports have said they will cut around 6,000 staff between them as analysis by the Mail shows that as many as 135,000 Britons face unemployment.

Analysis of the threat of redundancies since the virus took hold has revealed 230,000 jobs are set to go both here and abroad at more than 100 of Britain’s biggest firms. 

Marks & Spencer has announced it will axe 950 staff in the first wave of a cull that will hit thousands of workers.

The announcement came after John Lewis and Boots already shed thousands of staff in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Britain’s high streets have been hammered by the crisis as millions of shoppers move to online shopping.

Shops are now allowed to welcome customers into stores but millions are still staying away, with footfall down 65 per cent last month compared to last year and sales tumbling by 48 per cent over the past three months.

Hundreds of job losses were set for M&S as part of an ongoing restructuring plan which could ultimately see thousands of positions go.

Earlier last month, Boots axed 4,000 jobs and closed 48 stores, citing the ‘significant impact’ of Covid-19. Meanwhile John Lewis shut eight large stores, putting 1,300 employees at risk.

Burger King also announced it would shutter one in ten outlets, jeopardising 1,600 positions.

And around 5,000 employees have gone at Cath Kidston, Laura Ashley, Harveys furniture store, Monsoon, Accessorize and Harrods.

Some 27,000 M&S employees were furloughed under the Government’s job retention scheme, which was designed to prevent mass lay-offs.

WH Smith announced yesterday 1,500 layoffs after a plunge in customers going into its stores during the coronavirus pandemic, saying it needed to reduce costs as its shops in airports and train stations are hit by low passenger numbers and its high street stores also suffer from low footfall. 

Just over half of its UK travel shops have reopened and 246 of its largest sites have started trading again.

All of its 575 high-street stores have opened, the business said, but footfall is strongly down compared to last year.

Revenue was 57 per cent lower last month compared to July 2019, even as sites started to welcome customers back, with most of this loss coming from the travel arm.

M&Co said it will shut 47 fashion shops, cutting 380 staff roles, while gambling giant William Hill reveals it is keeping 119 of its betting shops across the UK closed for good amid fears in-store customer levels will not return to pre-pandemic levels.

Pizza Express was among the big names to announce cuts yesterday, as bosses revealed they could shut 67 of its UK restaurants with up to 1,100 jobs at risk.

The 55-year-old company, owned by Chinese private equity firm Hony Capital, has debts of £735million and has put itself up for sale after bringing in experts.

Bosses at the chain said they wanted to push down rents by closing about 15 per cent of its 449 restaurants in the UK, which would help protect 9,000 jobs.

The news came as Currys PC World owner Dixons Carphone also announced today that it is to cut 800 jobs as part of an overhaul of its store management structure.

Many job cuts have been partly blamed on the gradual withdrawal of the furlough scheme. And MPs warned there will be more job cuts at smaller firms and called for more to be done.  

The cost of furloughing millions of British workers rose by more than £2billion in the last week of July,  new figures show.

Some 9.6 million jobs had been covered by the coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS) up to August 2, Government figures show. This was an increase of 100,000 on the previous week.

The cumulative cost of the scheme rose from £31.7billion on July 26 to £33.8billion on Sunday, an increase of £2.1billion.

However, HM Revenue and Customs said it does not currently have data on how many jobs are currently furloughed.

This makes it hard to determine how many people have gone back to work amid Boris Johnson’s call for offices and other workplaces to reopen to stimulate the economy.

Analysis found that, of large firms that have disclosed figures, 22,500 job cuts are in retail, 18,100 in restaurants, and 21,600 in travel and airlines. 

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