Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin has been accused of trying to wriggle out of paying his 40,000 employees after he told them to go and work at Tesco.
The pub chain closed hundreds of pubs around the country on Sunday after Boris Johnson ordered a nation-wide closure of all non-essential businesses.
Martin claims he’s since “had calls” from Tesco, who announced a 20,000 job recruitment drive last week, asking for workers to support them during the crisis.
In a video apologising to staff for the closure of the pubs, the businessman called on his 40,000 employees to join major supermarkets who are struggling.
He begins the video saying the closures are "unprecedented" and puts "everyone in a terribly difficult position".
Martin said: "I know you're all sitting there wondering what the hell is happening and over the weekend I had lots of phone calls with different people and we're trying to sort it out as best we can in this highly unusual situation.
"I know that all our trade now has gone to supermarkets.
"Not only our trade, but the trade from cafés, leisure centres, restaurants etc.
"So we have had lots of calls from supermarkets, Tesco alone want 20,000 people to join them.
"That's half the amount of people who work in our pubs."
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Martin went on to talk about how the Government have promised to pay 80% of staff wages up to £2,500, but admits they could wait weeks before they receive it.
He then urges staff to join supermarkets instead of waiting for the payouts, claiming he “understands” if ”you don’t want to wait around for us”.
The Wetherspoons boss finished: "If I'm honest, I could say you can get the furlough payments and stay at home.
"If you're offered a job at a supermarket, many of you will want to do that. If you think it's a good idea, do it.
"I can completely understand it. If you've worked for us before I promise we will give you first preference if you want to come back.
"I completely understand if you don't want to wait around for us to reopen but deeply appreciate your work."
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Martin’s comments received backlash online from people suggesting he is "just trying to get out of paying everyone what they're owed".
One user claimed: "Tim Martin is worth £448m and he is refusing to pay his staff who have helped make his money.
"My sister and her boyfriend work for Spoons and won’t be paid for a month.
"We need to boycott businesses who value wealth over their employees welfare."
While a second said: "All right thinking people must remember, when this is all over, what Tim Martin of Wetherspoons told his workers, go work in Tesco!
"I for one will not be spending one more shilling in his chain! I'll not be keeping him in luxury while his workers are treated like this!"
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