The JD Wetherspoon pub chain has warned employees working at its airport sites that up to 450 jobs could go.
John Hutson, chief executive, has written to 1,000 staff at Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports to alert them that 400 to 450 positions were at risk of redundancy.
It is the first time the chain has made pub workers redundant, although six weeks ago it announced between 110 and 130 head office cuts.
Mr Hutson, 55, said: “The decision is mainly a result of a downturn in trade in these pubs, linked with the large reduction in passenger numbers using the airports.”
He said that “no firm decisions have been made at this stage” and that the company would listen to suggestions from staff to help avoid or reduce the number of compulsory redundancies.
“Wetherspoon is proposing to collectively consult with employees through an employment representative committee, which will be established for this purpose,” he said. Wetherspoon, which was founded by Tim Martin in 1979, sells cheap ales, breakfasts, lunches and dinners. It had 44 pubs in 1992 at its flotation and now has 875 in Britain and Ireland, employing 43,000 staff.
Mr Martin, 65, yesterday branded the government’s decision to impose a 10pm curfew on pubs as “utter stupidity” and “counterproductive” given the safety and hygiene standards enforced by pub workers.
He said: “A curfew will mean that supervised socialising in pubs will end at 10pm and people are likely to socialise in their homes and elsewhere, where there is no supervision.”
He said last week that while it was clearly possible for infections to take place in pubs, the evidence indicated that the risk was low “provided social distancing and hygiene rules are followed and common sense is used”.
The chain said that in the ten weeks after July 4, when pubs were allowed to reopen, there had been 66 positive tests for coronavirus among its 41,564 employees, with 811 of its pubs reporting zero positive tests.