JD Wetherspoon has denied "abandoning workers in a time of need", after staff claimed they'd been told not to expect future payments until cash from the chancellor's wage scheme had been received.
A spokesperson for the pub giant, which employs about 40,000 people, said staff would receive their weekly pay on Friday but could not confirm when they would receive future payments. The group has suggested workers could seek alternative jobs at Tesco supermarkets, saying their return to the company will be made a priority when pubs are able to reopen.
JD Wetherspoon was forced to close all sites from Saturday in line with prime minister Boris Johnson's instructions.
The Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union president Ian Hodson said: "[Wetherspoon founder] Tim Martin's actions are shocking. He is ignoring the advice of the government to stand by your workers and instead abandoning them in their time of need. They need to pay rent, buy food and, because of the low wages he's always paid them, will not have savings to depend upon. His selfish approach says unless the government puts money into my bank account today he'll let the workers who have made him rich suffer. It is completely unacceptable."
A JD Wetherspoon spokesman said the pub's stance had been completely misinterpreted. He added: "It was made clear that all employees would get paid this Friday for all work carried out until the pubs shut.
"After that, the company would utilise the government ‘furlough' scheme, which pays 80% of wages, details of which are in the course of being finalised between licensed trade representatives and the government at the present time.
"As we understand it, tens of thousands of hospitality workers and others have already lost their jobs, but Wetherspoon is retaining all its employees, using the government scheme for the purpose for which it is intended.
"Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said to employees in a video that supermarkets were urgently looking for staff, since all trade from pubs, restaurants and cafés had transferred to supermarkets in the last few days. Wetherspoon has had urgent calls from supermarkets asking for help in recruitment. Tesco alone urgently needs 20,000 staff, we understand.
"Tim Martin said in the video that staff who wanted to work for Tesco should do so and they will be given first priority when Wetherspoon pubs reopen. Wetherspoon believes that the actions it has taken are responsible and sensible in the difficult circumstances."