Now is the time to act to save our industry, and each and every one of us can make a difference, says David Moore
wake up most mornings to the ping of my phone, to read the latest missive from Jonathan Downey (JD) as he disseminates that morning's press, general rants from social media and his thoughts on our way forward on the Whatsapp group Hospitality Union.
There are battles to be fought and only some can be won. The service charge situation in furlough, or should I say the lack of it, is disappointing. Service charge is a big contributor to take home pay, and annoyingly we pay tax on it; but we also play a game of making it non-contractual, which has come back to bite us with our very clever tronc schemes and discretionary service charges. It is now an argument that makes us sound ungrateful for furlough. It's a lost cause, drop it, stop whinging and move on – it is a distraction from the bigger picture.
Watching The Darkest Hour, the film about Winston Churchill, on VE Day, I really felt that the hospitality industry is also in its darkest hour and no one is listening. But, let's face it, we are in competition for the argument, the soundbites and the money with bigger industries with louder voices, funded lobbying and, frankly, better connected communities. It feels like we have no voice.
We don't have a Churchillian character; JD might be doing sterling work, but even he isn't Winston. Kate Nicholls at UKHospitality, the voice of the industry, seems lacking firepower (though that's not a criticism) when we are up against the likes of Richard Branson, Willie Walsh and Len McCluskey – all seasoned players. It reminds me of the scene when Churchill rants: "It is not a good time to negotiate when your head is in the tiger's mouth."
We have been invaded by coronavirus, the biggest weapon is Covid-19, and it is taking serious casualties. Every death is a family in mourning and a devastating loss. Our industry cannot be the next victim. We should have a voice, and if we use our individual voices, not sitting back thinking someone else will win this war for us, not thinking my voice is too small to count, then we can be heard.
If we use our individual voices, not sitting back thinking someone else will win this war for us, not thinking my voice is too small to count, then we can be heard
Now is the time for every reader of The Caterer to take action and do something to win this war. Don't think I'm exaggerating – we are at war with the airlines, the steel industry, the high street, the oil industry – they are all looking for government money.
Last week I emailed my MP. I didn't have a clue who it was, and it turns out to be Sir Keir Starmer. I always think his name sounds like a character in Star Wars. It's shame we don't have Obi-Wan Kenobi batting for our industry.
Go to www.parliament.uk and find your local MP. Tell them about your hardships, your hopes, your dreams; be certain to mention #NationalTimeOut, #RaiseTheBar, VAT reductions and the disaster a two-metre distance law would be. You don't need to explain these initiatives, they will be on their radar; they just need to know that the people who they represent care about it.
The irony is, if we don't get #NationalTimeOut, the wonderful and expensive furlough will only be a waiting room for the unemployed, and that will be a national disaster. I ask everyone, kitchen porter to CEO, to clink that link. It takes 1,000 layers to make one bite of a millefeuille; it takes the voice of an industry to be heard.
May the force be with you.
● To join the Hospitality Union group, contact Julia@ londonunion.com. We need to unite behind strong ideas before it is too late.
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