‘Flog your private island and pay your staff’: Richard Branson among billionaire business owners and shareholders facing furious demand to open their OWN wallets to help staff survive as the coronavirus epidemic batters the economy
- Huge firms have demanded staff take unpaid leave too keep their jobs at all
- Airlines among the worst affected as the globe grinds to a halt due to pandemic
- Politicians have called for billionaire owners to put their hands in their pockets
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
Billionaire company bosses were facing furious demands to put their hands in their own pockets to help their hard-pressed workers through the coronavirus pandemic today.
Huge firms including the likes of Virgin Atlantic, owned by Sir Richard Branson, and Stelios Haji-Ioannou’s Easyjet have demanded staff take weeks of unpaid leave or asked for huge state aid to help avoid making hundreds of people redundant.
The economy is in free-fall in the face of the pandemic, with airlines, retail and the hospitality sectors among the worst affected as the globe grinds to a halt.
EasyJet this week begged its pilots and cabin crew to take three months of unpaid leave and said 3,000 faced losing their jobs.
But last night it confirmed plans for a £174million dividend payout to shareholders, including £60million for Mr Haji-Ioannou, the Times reported.
Enraged politicians and trade union leaderssuggested that people with billion-pound fortunes could and should be leading by example and stumping up cash they can afford in solidarity with their staff.
Many are facing an uncertain time ahead despite government efforts to aid those renting homes and with mortgages to pay.
Earlier this week shadow education secretary Angela Rayner lashed out at Sir Richard after Virgin Atlantic, in which he owns a majority stake, reportedly asked staff to take eight weeks off without pay in the next tree months.
Its chief executive has also called for a £7.5billion bailout for the airline industry as a whole.
The billionaire lives with his family on the luxurious Necker Island in the Caribbean.
She tweeted: ‘Richard flog yr private island and pay yr staff, we are in unprecedented times here.
‘Now is the time yr staff need support after making mountains of cash for the company.’
Earlier this week shadow education secretary Angela Rayner lashed out at Sir Richard, who lives with his family on the luxurious Necker Island in the Caribbean (pictured)
Easyjet, whose majority owner Mr Haji-Ioannou is estimated to have a net worth of more than one billion pounds, is asking staff to take unpaid leave as air travel drops off a cliff
On Wednesday in the Commons a Tory MP set out how easy it would be for Sir Richard too pay his staff.
Richard Fuller, who represents North East Bedfordshire, told the Commons:
Mr Fuller said: ‘To the point of leaders not doing the right thing I think the experience of Virgin Airlines has been raised, that the owner, or partial owner of Virgin Airlines has suggested that they should take eight weeks of unpaid leave.
‘And I decided to look and see how much would that cost.
‘Well eight weeks at the £94 statutory sick pay would cost £754 per employee. There are 8,571 employees in Virgin Airlines.
‘So if all of them took eight weeks’ unpaid leave that would be a cost of £6.4 million.
‘Sir Richard Branson’s net worth is £3.8 billion dollars. If he’s able to get 2 per cent interest on that money for eight weeks, he will earn the equivalent of £9.9 million.
‘So I say, Sir Richard Branson, give up your interest on your wealth for eight weeks and pay your employees yourself their unpaid leave.’
UK-based Virgin plans to ground three-quarters of its fleet by 26 March and by up to 85 per cent at points in April.
Mrs Rayner tweeted: ‘Richard flog yr private island and pay yr staff, we are in unprecedented times here. Now is the time yr staff need support after making mountains of cash for the company’
Easyjet meanwhile has introduced a pay frees and is also asking staff to take unpaid leave for three months, with demand for air travel at lows not seen for decades.
The budget airline was set up by Greek tycoon Mr Haji-Ioannou, who received an honourary knighthood from the Queen in 2006.
His net worth is estimated at more than one billion pounds from the airline and his myriad other business ventures including hotels.
In January, before coronavirus swept the globe, Easyjet posted a 9.9 per cent increase in revenues for the last quarter of 2019, raking in £1.425 billion.
Although it was still forecast to make a pre-tax loss in the first half of this year its chief executive Johan Lundgren said it expected to trade better in the first part of 2020 than it had in the same time the year before.
The company’s shares rose today as action taken by the Bank of England finally seemed to stabilise a market which has been volatile for weeks.
The FTSE 100 jumped by as much as 5.2 per cent as markets opened, although it later gave back some of those gains.
EasyJet jumped by 15 per cent, while BA owner IAG rose by 12 per cent and Tui gained 9 per cent.
Lord Adonis, who served in Gordon Brown’s Labour government, tweeted: ‘No company in this crisis should be paying dividends or bonuses rather than keeping staff in jobs’
Meanwhile a former transport secretary demanded the Government take actions against any firms which attempted to pay out to shareholders during the crisis.
Lord Adonis, who served in Gordon Brown’s Labour government, tweeted: ‘No company in this crisis should be paying dividends or bonuses rather than keeping staff in jobs.
‘And if they do, they shouldn’t get state support.’
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