Campaigners launch #NeverSpoons hashtag as pubs plan July re-opening

A pedestrian shelters from the rain beneath an umbrella as they walk past a JD Wetherspoon Plc pub i

A pedestrian shelters from the rain beneath an umbrella as they walk past a JD Wetherspoon Plc pub in London; photographer: Matthew Lloyd/Bloomberg via Getty Images - Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images

A campaign is calling for a boycott of JD Wetherspoon when pubs re-open because of its handling of employee pay during the coronavirus lockdown.

The pub chain's pro-Brexit chairman, Tim Martin, was heavily criticised at the start of the epidemic for refusing to pay staff wages while venues were shut, telling workers to find a job at Tesco in the meantime.

MORE: Wetherspoon staff hit out at 'big slap in the face' from boss Tim Martin

Despite a change of heart from the businessman that meant staff would be assisted, many have not let his actions slide from memory and took to social media calling on a boycott of the franchise following news that pubs would reopen from July 4. It even got its on trending hashtag on Twitter - #NeverSpoons.

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Twitter user @Rebelx2Comedy said it was time publicans 'think twice' before going to another Wetherspoons. 'When pubs reopen,' he wrote, 'don't forget the boss of Wetherspoons initially laid off his staff at the start of the crisis and told them to work elsewhere.'

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@deficit_the urged people to find new drinking spots: 'A reminder that the Wetherspoon's owner refused to pay staff at the start of lockdown, and was forced to U-turn after being threatened with legal action.

'Maybe we can find other places to get a beer, eh?'

Martin G said he has avoided the chain for years, stressing that he would rather 'have a drink in a public toilet'.

'The way that cretin [Martin] has treated staff is a timely reminder never to relax my boycott.'

But critics of the campaign pointed out that boycotting pubs is unlikely to lead to any improvement for the thousands of employees, with the loss of earnings likely to impact the staff.

Twitter user @amycwb wrote: 'Even if this happened, wouldn't it be better to buy from Wetherspoon's to support the (usually very young) staff and pay their wages? Or am I just seeing it from the wrong perspective?'

Martin is no stranger to controversy. At the start of the lockdown, he claimed it was 'over the top' to shut pubs down, arguing that 'hardly any' transmissions occurred there.

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