When the Covid-19 nightmare is over, I hope we all remember how two people in particular behaved. Tim Martin, chairman of Wetherspoons, and Mike Ashley. When you talk about the unacceptable face of capitalism, the phrase was invented for these two.
With the benefit of no scientific evidence at all, Martin railed against his friend Boris Johnson’s request for people to stop going to pubs because transmission rates were minimal and Wetherspoons were so clean anyway (which is an absolute joke to anyone who has ever used a Spoons). Now Martin, who is worth over half a billion quid, has told his staff to go and work for Tesco if they want to get some wages in the next couple of months because he can’t pay them.
If Martin is a lowlife toe-rag, then Ashley will always sink to the occasion and be an even bigger toe-rag. After initially suggesting Sports Direct provided a frontline service and that the stores would be staying open, the company decided to close down anyway. Then, things got nasty.
They told staff to wear rubber gloves before the store closed, but there was no guidance about the two metre rule. Staff were not being paid to isolate, instead being told to claim benefits. Predictably, the zero contract staff whom Ashley prefers to employ have been told to get alternative work with no notice.
No spirit of ‘We’re all in it together’ from Martin and Ashley because from their point of view, we’re not. Workers have no rights and they are dispensable. It would only be a slight exaggeration to call them slaves.
I’m going to try very hard to never again use Sports Direct and maybe, when I can afford it, I’ll avoid the Wetherpoons chain, too. In commerce as in politics, our country is full of lions led by donkeys.