Laid off Edinburgh workers call for help after coronavirus shatters lives across Capital

Particularly badly hit has been the city’s hospitality and services industry

Workers in Edinburgh already being laid off en masse in the midst of the coronavirus crisis are calling for practical help as they try to take stock of shattered lives.

Across the Capital and beyond thousands have already been let go by employers or have had hours and pay reduced.

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Particularly badly hit has been the city’s hospitality and services industry, which have both practically died overnight, with many restaurants and bars already closed.

Particularly badly hit has been the city’s hospitality and services industry

But white collar staff and gig economy workers are also facing hardship with many temp workers contracts thrown into doubt across multiple sectors.

Business leaders grappling to figure out how to pay staff have welcomed a £2.2bn package from economic secretary Fiona Hyslop which has allowed many city pubs and restaurants to re-style themselves overnight as takeaways thanks to an immediate relaxing in planning rules, but have called for more direct help for employees.

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And with many families left worrying about how to make rent payments or mortgages, the Scottish Government is trying to reassure people that they will receive support.

Cambridge Street restaurant Dine was one of many throughout the city forced to close its doors as reality bites.

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Paul Brennan of Dine

Owners Paul Brennan and Stuart Muir said: “With recent events unfolding we have struggled to stay open and today we had to make a decision to protect staff and customers by closing the restaurant.

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“Staff will still have an income on this payroll and we are meeting our staff tomorrow to make arrangements and to see how we can best support them and their families going forward.

“Our staff are our number one priority and if money is made available we will react with this in mind. Although we do plan to reopen in three to four weeks, we will ensure that any excess supplies such as milk is distributed amongst our close knit family of staff.

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Martin Murphy
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“Some more clarity from the Scottish government as to what support we have to offer our employees would be forthcoming. Our bank manager is the only one giving us updates but we need localised help with regards to what will be offered.”

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Barber Martin Murphy, 31, has seen his livelihood visiting care homes to cut residents’ hair shattered in a matter of days as more stringent measures were recommended by the government for social distancing.

The expectant father who has a child on the way in June, will have to rely on his wife Catherine’s income to support the household if his alternative of offering mobile cuts does not bring in a suitable income.

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He said: “My ability to secure an income has been completely decimated. With visits to care homes being stopped I will have to rely on my income from the barbershop that I work at two days a week but there is no guarantee that it will stay open.

“It has come at a troubling time as my wife and I are expecting our child in June. But I have offered to come out and bring the barber shop to customers with a focus on cleanliness.”

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Yesterday afternoon the Chancellor Rishi Sunak hosted a roundtable meeting with representatives from business groups and trade unions.

Mr Sunak said: “We are working round the clock to deliver further support to individuals and families whose jobs and incomes will be affected by COVID-19 – and to do so urgently.”

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A Treasury spokesman said the government has held “extensive discussions” on measures to support individuals facing financial difficulty as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, and further details will be confirmed in the coming days.

Meanwhile the Scottish Government has announced it will take action again social landlords if they attempt to evict people over rent arrears during the coronavirus crisis.

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And families of children from P4 to S6 who receive free school meals, and those in P1 to P3 who are entitled to clothing grants, will receive a fortnightly electronic payment during term time and the Easter holidays equivalent to the cost of a school meal.

Families of children in P1 to P3 who have an income-based entitlement to free school meals and a clothing grant will be contacted directly.

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Council Leader Adam McVey stressed the city was doing all it could to help vulnerable families.

He said: “I’m pleased that we’ve been able to ensure young people who receive Free School Meals will continue to be supported with this payment. We’ve also given additional funding to help support families with children receiving free school meals through the Easter Holidays.

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“I want to reassure the people of Edinburgh that the Council will continue to do all it can to protect and support our communities.”