Scots Covid hospitality support 'drop in ocean'

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Unite has welcomed the Scottish government’s ‘much more’ proactive approach to supporting the Covid-hit hospitality industry but said the £66 million in support for business will not stop mass job losses. 

First minister Nicola Sturgeon announced this afternoon that £66 million of the previously-announced £100 million in business support funding will be allocated to the country’s hospitality sector. 

Sturgeon said £8 million will go to food and drink supply chains, including wholesalers, impacted by Omicron cancellations.

A further £20 million will go to the culture sector, with the wedding and worst impacted parts of the tourism sector each receiving £3 million.

Sturgeon said: “We are working with councils, enterprise agencies and others to ensure businesses get this money as soon as possible – those who have previously received support will be contacted directly.”

Unite industrial organiser Bryan Simpson said that in comparison to the UK government, Unite appreciates the Scottish government’s ‘much more proactive approach’, but that ‘£66 million is a drop in the ocean’ and will not prevent further mass job loss. 

“There are also no guarantees that this money will go direct to workers, or even that it will go to employers who will keep staff on beyond Christmas,” Simpson added. 

“It is perfectly possible for Nicola Sturgeon to attach very reasonable conditions to this public money including a commitment that recipients keep workers on, paying the real living wage with minimum hours they can rely on – in congruence with the Scottish Business Pledge. 

“We also support Sturgeon’s calls for the return of furlough on a UK-wide level to ensure workers get 100 per cent wages and for full sick pay for those who must self-isolate.” 

In Wales, first minister Mark Drakeford has announced that nightclubs will be required to close after 26 December, as well as the introduction of a host of other Covid measures, with £60 million being made available for impacted businesses. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is coming under increasing pressure, including from unions, Tory and Labour MPs and industry, to provide additional support to hospitality workers and businesses impacted by mass cancellations and rising Covid rates.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The government must bring forward a package of support for hospitality workers today. The uncertainty the prime minister is causing is devastating – workers don’t know if they will even have a job to go to next week. This is an appalling position to put people in.  

“Hospitality workers did not cause this crisis and they should not be the ones who pay for it. They still have rent to find and bills to pay but are seeing their incomes disappear before their eyes. They need help now.”

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