Unions are calling for immediate support for workers in the hospitality and entertainment industries amid warnings of a jobs “crisis”.
The Omicron wave has caused a growing number of theatres and live events to cancel performances, alongside reports of a downturn in bookings, with pubs and restaurants facing similar problems.
Sharon Graham, leader of the Unite union, 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.”
Bectu, the theatre workers union, has written to the Chancellor, urging him to provide urgent support for the industry to prevent a “jobs crisis”.
Head of Bectu, Philippa Childs, said: “We now face a New Year theatre crisis with a lack of leadership from Government, a rising wave of Omicron cases and an anxious public. This started as a public health crisis but it could quickly become a jobs crisis as well.
“With the recent tightening of Covid restrictions, there has been little commentary on the significant impact these will have on self-employed workers working in theatres and live events.
“Bectu is concerned that self-employed workers again appear to be at the back of the queue when it comes to planning for any further financial disruption to our everyday lives.
“We need to give business stability and the support for the creative industries to be open and trading safely, but we must also contemplate what happens if the Government imposes restrictions that actually or effectively closes them.”
Transport Salaried Staffs Association general secretary, Manuel Cortes, said: “The Government must bring back furlough to protect jobs at Eurostar and elsewhere as we suffer the effects of Omicron.
“Measures to tackle the virus, such as travel restrictions, must come with financial support for businesses, including our travel trade, to prevent thousands of job losses.
“Eurostar has already suffered from plummeting passenger numbers since the start of the pandemic, but as our only green link to Europe it must be a strategic priority for Government to sustain the route.
“The Government has refused to provide anything other than furlough support since the beginning of the pandemic.”
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: “Eurostar has taken an absolute hammering financially since the pandemic hit.
“We are calling on the Government to recognise the importance of Eurostar to the future of UK transport infrastructure and to meet in tripartite talks with ministers, the company and the unions to ensure a safety net is in place to prevent any risk of the operation tipping over.
“With the loss of revenues over Christmas and into the New Year, the situation at Eurostar is deadly serious and the Government cannot be allowed to just wash their hands and walk away.”
Equity, the trade union for performing arts workers, has also written to the Chancellor to call for action to protect its members in light of rising cases of the Omicron variant.
General secretary Paul W Fleming said: “The Westminster Government has given some meagre support to bosses from the Cultural Recovery Fund, business rate relief, expanded theatre tax credit. Their support to Equity members has been negligible.
“Don’t lock us down without support, don’t abandon the workforce who have done more than anyone else to keep our industries alive.”