More companies accused of mistreating workers amid coronavirus crisis

As this unprecedented crisis has forced many industries to effectively go into lockdown, some businesses acted to protect their self-interest at the expense of their employees and the public.

Companies have come under fire for their response to the coronavirus pandemic. As this unprecedented crisis has forced many industries to effectively go into lockdown, some businesses acted to protect their self-interest at the expense of their employees and the public.

Britannia Hotels became the target of social media ire after staff Coylumbridge Hotel near Aviemore were sacked and evicted from hotel premises on 19 March.

A letter which has since gone viral told employees that following the Covid-19 outbreak the hotel was ‘taking the latest government advice” and asking staff to to vacate the hote ‘immediately”.

The chain has since apologised saying that the letter had been sent to their employees due to ‘admin error’.

As cinemas across the country were closed, employees at the Cameo Picturehouse cinema in Edinburgh received a letter that they were being laid off ‘immediately’.

The letter told them that this was to ‘save the business given the serious difficulties’ and that they were only entitled to receive notice pay.

The formerly independent Picturehouse chain is now owned by Cineworld.

As travel restrictions are laying devastation to the airline industry, billionaire Richard Branson has come under fire for asking for asking employees to take two weeks unpaid leave.

The Virgin Atlantic head, worth neary £3.8billion, is refusing to give his staff sick leave during the proposed break to ease pressure on the industry.

Workers are instead expected to claim the paltry sum of £94 in statutory sick pay.

A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said this was part of the ‘immediate and decisive’ action needed in order to deal with the ‘sharp and continual drop in demand’.

“The situation is deteriorating at pace and the airline has seen several days of negative bookings, driven by a huge volume of cancellations as customers choose to stay at home,” said the spokesperson.

“As a direct result of this action the airline will need to further reduce its cost base.

“Staff will be asked to take eight weeks unpaid leave over the next three months, with the cost spread over six months’ salary, to drastically reduce costs without job losses.”

A petition with more than 3,000 signatures is urging hardware and household good retailer Wilko not to slash employee sick pay in the midst of the public health crisis.

Wilko is alleged to have slashed sick pay for every employee, with no sick pay after the first occasion of sickness. Those with the company for less than a year are said to not be allowed any sick pay at all.

The GMB union said they are prepared to take industrial action over the ‘draconian’ measures.

A Wilko spokesperson said: “Wilko has paid Company Sick Pay to team members absent with COVID-19 since the beginning of the outbreak and continues to do so.

“This is over and above Statutory Sick Pay.

“Regrettably, misuse of our absence policy has been present in some parts of our business for a long time and remains a significant challenge for us.

“We had planned to implement a change in April to address this misuse however we appreciate now is not the time.

“So, those changes will now be introduced in September.”

Britannia Hotels and Cineworld were also approached for comment.

Sophia Dourou is a freelance journalist

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