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Hastings hotel workers' jobs saved after wages pledge


Howard Hastings

Howard Hastings

Brian Little/Presseye

Howard Hastings

Staff at Northern Ireland's biggest hotel group who faced being temporarily laid off for the next three months have had their jobs saved.

Employees of the Hastings Group, which owns seven hotels including the flagship Europa and Culloden, looked like they would be without pay after the coronavirus crisis crippled the hospitality sector.

But following Chancellor Rishi Sunak's pledge that the Government would cover 80% of pay of workers laid off because of Covid-19, the Hastings Group has indicated that they will bring staff back on board.

Managing director Howard Hastings told the BBC's Inside Business programme with Richard Morgan yesterday: "One of the implications of the chancellor's announcement is that we will be able to rescind those letters that we gave to our staff.

"We will talk to them on Monday; (staff) can rest assured that they are still working within their notice period, they are still on our books and will remain on our books, and will be able to avail of the announcement the chancellor has made."

The Unite union had earlier criticised the Hastings Group for what it claimed was its targeting of dozens of workers on zero-hours and casual contracts.

Mr Hastings said the comments hurt, adding: "I have never had to contemplate making people redundant in my career, and it was with a heavy heart that I had to notify people last Thursday that they would be at risk. On the Friday individuals were met by a general manager, by their head of department, by human resources, they were told that they would be re-employed when the time was right."

Hours after this the chancellor announced his Covid-19 economic rescue package - a move that Howard Hastings says allows him to "reverse" the hotel group's previous decision.

Describing the impact the killer virus has wreaked on the NI hospitality sector, the well-known businessman said: "We've never known the likes of it. There are very few customers now. The residents we have are simply people who haven't got anywhere else to stay. It is the most devastating time for the entire sector."

In the past week, it is estimated that up to 10,000 jobs have been lost here as the economic impact of the coronavirus escalates. Most of those jobs have been in the hospitality sector.

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Belfast Telegraph