Another Round

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Should we be boycotting Wetherspoons?

Opinion

Should we be boycotting Wetherspoons?

It’s no new news that Wetherspoons is maybe not the most reputable of pub chains within the UK. Dirt cheap pints must have a cost somewhere, right? Well, it would seem that recent events relating to corona virus and the closure of pubs (until the 4th of July, this Saturday) have brought complaints to the fore. As usual, I consulted Twitter for answers on this call to boycott Wetherspoons that circulated across social media platforms.

The major cause behind the call to boycott Wetherspoons was the fact the owner of the company, Tim Martin, reportedly refused to pay his staff when lockdown measures were first implemented. Many have tweeted saying Martin told staff to “look for jobs elsewhere” and did not support his staff, despite government furlough schemes. Moreover, it is reported that Martin received a £48 million interest free loan, as approved by government backed lenders in the Large Business Interruption Scheme yet did not necessarily invest in his workers. It is quite interesting to see how little support was supplied to other important sectors in the UK, such as the arts and entertainment, yet Wetherspoons were eligible for a handsome sum. No doubt the Wetherspoons chains do something for the economy, although they will be closing [] stores. It is quite amusing that Martin described lockdown as a “long hiatus” for pubs. Hiatus implies some degree of willingness, I can confirm Brits did not give up the pub willingly.

However, counter to this call to boycott Wetherspoons, some staff have actually been highlighting the benefits of working for Wetherspoons. Specifically, one lad wrote on Twitter how he gets paid at least 30% more than the minimum wage by working at Wetherspoons, whilst retaining his job and being paid during the lockdown. He got an impressive 11k likes and 3k retweets, yet the trend remains the same. People aren’t happy about the overall image of Wetherspoons. Moreover, it might be misleading to read too much into this 30%. If £6.45 is the minimum wage for those under 21 (according to the government website), the extra 30% works out at around £1.90. I wouldn’t scoff at an extra £2 but it is not representative of the profit Wetherspoons makes as a chain and the usual degree of understaffing that I have seen at most of their pubs.

Overall, it seems that Wetherspoons will be taking a number of precautions when they reopen some of their pubs on Saturday. From reducing capacity, reducing food options and no longer streaming live sports, the chain will attempt to keep punters as safe as possible. Time will only tell. We have already seen how supermarkets have gone from strict social distancing to a free for all. All I can add is that whilst Wetherspoons does seem to be somewhat shaky in reputation and I don’t have strong admiration for Tim Martin, supporting your local will do much more for the people it employs and is run by. However, the whole controversy has born some great tweets.

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