Whitbread redundancies underscore need for urgent government support for hospitality sector

Commenting on the 6,000 job losses announced today by Whitbread, which owns Premier Inn and Beefeater, Unite Assistant General Secretary, Howard Beckett, said: 

“Unite’s Whitbread members will be absolutely devastated by these job losses, which will most likely impact high levels of women and young people who are disproportionately represented within the hospitality sector. 

“Just three months ago Whitbread’s CEO Alison Brittain stated the company was raising a £1bn acquisition war chest and did not need the cash to survive. For many it will be hard not to see this announcement as cynical coronavirus opportunism.

“Whitbread readily took taxpayers' money as part of the Job Retention Scheme. The clue is in the name and Whitbread must now uphold its part of the bargain, put these plans on hold and work with Unite to avoid job losses that will cause misery and hardship across the country.

“Urgent government action is also required. The hospitality sector was the first to suffer during the lockdown and will be the last to emerge from the restrictions – it is in desperate need of support. 

“Unless the government offers sector-specific assistance, either by extending furlough or initiating a short time working scheme, we’re going to witness hundreds of thousands of hotel, bar and restaurant jobs disappear over the coming months. 

“In the absence of a vaccine as we head towards winter, ministers must also get a handle on the test and trace system to control the spread of the virus, restore public confidence and allow the economy to run as normally as possible.”