Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin decides to pay staff after all

Pub chain had come under fire for withholding wages for its 43,000 staff but will make payments for last week on Friday

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Tim Martin
JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin Credit: SUZANNE PLUNKETT/Reuters

The boss of pub chain JD Wetherspoon has reversed a decision to withhold staff pay until a government rescue package kicks in, following a major backlash from the public. 

But Tim Martin said his firm will still freeze payments to suppliers - even for goods already received.

The U-turn came after Mr Martin told staff they would not be paid until the start of a Government programme which will cover 80pc of the salaries for workers who have been temporarily laid off. This could happen as late as the end of April.

This initial plan sparked fury from campaigners, with a Wetherspoon pub in Crystal Palace graffitied with the words: "Pay your staff".

Wetherspoon has since drawn up its own proposed rules on how the Government retention scheme could work, and has submitted these to ministers for approval.

Mr Martin said the pub chain's 43,000 workers will be paid on Friday for the hours they put in last week. He hopes the first payment under the state-backed wages scheme will be made on April 3, subject to government approval.

But a spokesman said there are no plans for Wetherspoon to reverse its decision on withholding payments to suppliers.

In an email Mr Martin asked suppliers for a moratorium on payments. He said the pub chain would repay what it owes  within a short timeframe once the Government allows hospitality outlets to trade again.

The email, first reported by industry website Footprint, added: “We understand that this puts significant pressure on our suppliers, but we are kindly asking for your assistance during this very difficult period.

“A number of our suppliers have already offered assistance and we would be most grateful for your cooperation as well.”

Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct has found itself at the centre of a similar backlash this week. It initially tried to keep stores open on Tuesday, arguing that it should be classed as an “essential retailer” because it could help keep people fit during the crisis.

Sports Direct has since closed all stores after coming under fire from the Government.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Boris Johnson sent a message to Mr Ashley saying businesses must obey the Government's rules or "expect the consequences”.

Labour MP Rachel Reeves, chairman of the Commons business committee, added: “At times of national crisis, it’s vital that businesses step up, do the right thing and stand by their workers and their customers. 

“When many businesses are undertaking great work to support the national effort, it’s crucial that companies such as JD Wetherspoon and Sports Direct do all they can ensure their workers are properly protected and get the pay to which they are entitled.”