Portsmouth pub landlords issue rallying cry for new staff amid claims 'no one wants to work' with people 'happy' to take furlough money

PUB landlords have issued a rallying cry to those not working to put their hand to the pump and take up jobs as some pubs struggle to recruit staff since reopening amid claims ‘no-one wants to work’.

By Steve Deeks
Saturday, 8th May 2021, 4:55 am

Furlough has been blamed as the leading culprit discouraging workers to take jobs in pubs that are struggling under increasing demand to serve punters with ‘costly’ table service.

Publicans say the shortage of applicants for jobs has surprised them with owners increasingly forced to turn to younger candidates and those with less experience as former workers turn their back on the industry.

The shortfall is being made up by longer hours for existing staff and landlords as they battle to fill the void amid increasing costs and fewer punters on seats while operating at reduced capacities.

Tom Yaman at the Duke of Devonshire, Portsmouth on 7 May 2021 Picture: Habibur Rahman

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Tom Yaman, landlord of the Duke of Devonshire on Albert Road, Southsea, said he was finding it difficult to recruit staff.

The pub has two new members of staff but is looking for another two workers to help pour pints.

‘I put an advert up for staff on Facebook but it seems no-one wants to work,’ Tom said. ‘I think everyone got used to furlough or Universal Credit and is happy to take the money.

Damage caused after a car crashed into The Chairmakers in World's End on Saturday, February 27 around 9am. Pictured is: Landlord of The Chairmakers Angus Reid. Picture: Sarah Standing (010321-3893)

‘People don’t feel like working. Everyone (other landlords) have been saying the same thing. In the past we would get lots of applications for jobs but since lockdown we haven’t. People are not so motivated.’

Tom said having to serve customers to their tables meant pubs were actually in need of more staff.

‘Table service makes it harder for us,’ he said. ‘We need one or two more staff every day to carry out table service.

‘It is more costly for us and more tiring but these are government guidelines. Even after May 17 we will still need table service. It will be good to open our doors and let people inside but I believe it will be busy and we will still need more staff.’

Rodney Watson, landlord of Southsea Village on Palmerston Road, said he was ‘very lucky’ not to have any issues with staffing personally but said he knew it was a problem for others.

‘It’s been tough times for friends I know in the industry who are finding it tough to find people,’ he said. ‘It is an issue with people on furlough and not working.

‘I’m lucky all my staff are back from furlough and we’re very busy. We’ve had to employ more people.’

Angus Reid, landlord of the Chairmakers Arms in Apless Lane, World’s End, said: ‘A lot of people are walking away from working in pubs. It also has a lot to do with Brexit with eastern European workers previously taking up a lot of the jobs.

‘There’s also not as many university students about now due to the lockdowns. People don’t want to quit furlough to get a job either.

‘A lot of pubs are advertising and can’t get anyone apart from 16 or 17-year-olds with no transport who want to do it around their college. There’s very few with experience and few who are older.

‘You have people who were made redundant during the lockdowns who have lost confidence in the industry and left for a more secure job. People don’t want to work for minimum wage.’

Angus said he has to close early at 8.30pm as staff are unable to work 10-hour shifts but believes things could get worse before they improve. ‘Things may get worse in May when we are open inside and outside as we will be more stretched,’ he said.

The landlord has taken on three new members of staff and believes things will get better. ‘I am still positive it will get better,’ he said. ‘We just have to fit the business around the needs but as we come out of lockdown there should be more people around.’

A reflection of the increasing workload with table service has been shown with his wife Sherry drumming up 40,000 steps in one shift, according to her Fitbit, while Angus has lost a stone with all the extra walking.

Garry Disdle, who has just taken over as landlord at the Sir Loin of Beef on Highland Road, Southsea, agreed that table service had piled on more work whilst reducing profit. ‘It’s a bugbear of mine,’ he said. ‘You need double the staff in a half full pub.

‘And when it’s busy you can’t always tell who is next in line. I don’t see the point in it. Why can’t people come into the pub wearing a mask and get their drinks then go back to their seats?’

Garry said he was fortunate to have ‘loyal staff’ from the previous ownership but said they all had to plug the gap of increasing work by doing longer shifts.

The landlord said he was aware of others in the industry who were struggling to recruit, though. ‘I’ve spoken to my friends in the trade and it’s a mixed bag. Some are ok with their staff, others are having problems,’ he said.

‘A lot of people are on furlough and don’t see the point in going back to work.’

Meanwhile Steve Hudson, landlord of The Wellington in Old Portsmouth said he had experienced no problems recruiting staff.

He added: ‘Staffing has not been a problem for us but we’re lucky because we have older barmaids we know who are happy to come in and help out for the odd shift if we need.

‘Table service has not been a problem either. We have one person at the bar and two waiting. It seems to work quite well.’

However, landlords posting on the Pub Owners Network Group on Facebook, pulled no punches in their views on the state of play with recruitment in the bar trade.

One wrote: ‘Six applied, one attaching his Job Centre form, three interviewed and only one turned up for a trial shift. I think some people have got used to being at home getting furlough money for doing nothing.’

Another said: ‘Nobody wants to work. So many of us in the same boat. And the news saying unemployment on the rise. Something isn’t right.’

A landlord, advising their counterparts on applicants, said: ‘Ask them if they are currently employed, if not (applying for a job) is probably just a box ticking exercise for Universal Credit. Sad but true.’

A fellow publican added: ‘What I don't understand is that everyone is crying out for staff, and everyone is looking for a job.

‘Stop furlough to anyone who isn't helping and they will all take whatever they can.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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