Job losses accelerate as furlough draws to a close

greene king employing ex-offenders
Yui Mok/PA Wire/PA Images

Up to 800 jobs are being shed by Suffolk brewer Greene King with the closure of 79 pubs and restaurants, while at airports a further 900 jobs are at risk as the coronavirus crisis continues to inflict serious damage on the hospitality and travel sectors.

Greene King, one of the UK’s largest pub operators, put the cuts down to the end of the furlough scheme and the onset of the 10pm curfew on pub drinking.

A spokesman for the Bury St Edmunds-based firm said: “The continued tightening of the trading restrictions for pubs, which may last another six months, along with the changes to government support was always going to make it a challenge to reopen some of our pubs.”

Some of the outlets would be closed permanently; others mothballed so they could reopen at a later date: “Therefore,” the spokesman said “we have made the difficult decision not to reopen 79 sites, including the 11 Loch Fyne restaurants we announced last week. Around a third will be closed permanently and we hope to be able to reopen the others in the future. We are working hard with our teams to try and find them a role in another of our pubs wherever possible.”

Greene King has over 1,700 pubs and 38,000 staff.

The spokesman added: “We urgently need the government to step in and provide tailored support to help the [hospitality] sector get through to the spring and prevent further pub closures and job losses,” a spokesman said, implying that the company did not regard chancellor Rishi Sunak’s job support scheme as sufficient.

Earlier this week, Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UK Hospitality, warned MPs on the Commons Treasury Committee of a surge in redundancies caused by the 10pm curfew on pubs, restaurants and bars, local lockdowns and the end of the job retention scheme.

She called for a complete rethink of the curfew pointing out that Wales and Ireland were maintaining staggered closing times while other European nations had much later curfews. The effect of the curfew on England and Scotland was to see staff shifts and thus jobs lost, she said.

Other breweries that have announced job cuts include Young’s, which operates about 270 pubs in the south of England and is making about 500 of its 4,200 staff redundant this month. Fuller’s, a FTSE-100 listed pub group, said at least 500 jobs were at risk, mostly at its sites in central London.

Meanwhile, Manchester Airports Group (MAG) have announced that 465 roles are under threat at Manchester Airport as well as 376 at London Stansted Airport and 51 at East Midlands Airport.

The firm said it would begin talks with unions about the potential job losses. It added it had already taken steps to reduce costs, including asking employees to take a 10% pay cut for a year, pausing investment and reducing its management team.

The end of the job retention scheme means we have to consider the number of roles that we can sustain at our airports” – Charlie Cornish, Manchester Airports Group

However, it said the “absence of support for the aviation sector, coupled with a lack of progress in introducing testing for UK passengers, has continued to undermine consumer confidence in air travel” and that passenger demand was not expected to recover fully before 2023-24.

MAG’s chief executive, Charlie Cornish, said: “The specific and short-term pressures of the pandemic are exceptional and particularly challenging for our sector.

“The end of the job retention scheme means we have to consider the number of roles that we can sustain at our airports.”

Unite’s north-west regional coordinator Lawrence Chapple-Gill said the job losses were an “inevitable consequence of the government’s failure to provide sector-specific support to the aviation industry, the sector most heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic”.

His comments were echoed by Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham who said the government had left the aviation industry “swinging in the wind” and called on it to provide the sector with financial help.

MAG said there had been a massive reduction in travel at its airports with only 2.8 million passengers between April and August compared with 30.3 million the previous year.

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