Many West Sussex hospitality workers face uncertainty despite Government jobs retention scheme

Many people working in restaurants, bars and hotels across West Sussex face uncertainty and unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic – despite a major Government jobs retention scheme, a trade union has warned.

Hospitality jobs could be at risk
Hospitality jobs could be at risk

With many hospitality businesses forced to close during the coronavirus pandemic, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has put in place multi-billion-pound measures to aim to safeguard jobs.

But Unite has warned that some companies are still choosing to lay staff off.

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There are around 26,262 people employed in the hospitality sector across West Sussex – including in hotels, restaurants, bars, catering companies and more.

Crawley has the largest number of workers in the industry (5,750 people), followed by Arun (5,350) and Chichester (4,600).

In Mid Sussex, 3,820 residents work in the sector, while 3,125 people have hospitality jobs in Horsham.

Adur and Worthing have the lowest numbers of people working in the sector in the county, at 1,260 and 2,360 employees respectively.

Across the UK as a whole, an estimated two million people are employed in the hospitality trade, according to official figures.

Unite’s national officer for hospitality, Dave Turnbull, said: “These figures show just how many people rely on the hospitality industry for employment, and the severity of the dangers the coronavirus crisis poses to their livelihoods and the health of local economies in general.”

He warned that many workers in the sector are ‘never more than a pay cheque away from the breadline’.

Mr Turnbull said the union was already coming across examples of businesses which had decided to lay staff off rather than place them on furlough under the Government’s scheme.

And he said there was ‘no excuse for companies not to join the scheme and so protect their workforces’.

“For bosses that don’t rehire fired staff or refuse to sign up to the job retention scheme, Unite’s message is clear: We will expose you, we challenge your behaviour and we will take legal action for unfair dismissals,” he said.

Hospitality trade association UKHospitality also urged employers to sign up to the wage-support scheme.

Its chief executive, Kate Nicholls, said that ‘not only will it safeguard jobs, it will also put the sector in a much stronger position to help rebuild the economy after the crisis has passed’.

On March 20, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered all bars, clubs and restaurants to close across the UK as part of the introduction of social distancing measures to limit the spread of coronavirus.

A rescue package for businesses and workers was immediately announced, which included the promise of a wage-support scheme for workers across the UK.

Hospitality, retail and leisure sectors were also given a business rates holiday in England, while Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were promised extra funding under the Barnett formula.

Emergency legislation to help businesses with rents has also been introduced.

“I know it’s tough out there,” the Chancellor said in a speech. “We in Government are doing everything we can to support you.”

But the effects of the virus on the restaurant industry is already being felt.

On March 30, Italian restaurant chain Carluccio’s was placed into administration, putting 2,000 jobs at risk, with the pandemic cited as one of the reasons for the move.

Its workers are expected to be placed on the Government jobs retention scheme as options for the chain’s future are explored.

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