Thousands of jobs could be at risk in Fife’s hospitality sector unless the fight for jobs in the region’s restaurants, bars and cafes is stepped up, a MSP has warned.
Claire Baker, Labour MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, believes a hospitality unemployment “crisis” could happen if the government’s furlough scheme ends before a jobs guarantee programme is in place.
New figures suggest the industry directly employs 11,750 people across Fife, while many more will be affected indirectly.
Mrs Baker said businesses need greater support to make adaptations they need to accommodate greater social distancing and keep more staff on their books.
“Across Fife, many people have been able to enjoy a meal out for the first time since March, and many chefs, waiting staff and kitchen staff are back at work for the first time since then.
“But necessary social distancing measures mean businesses are unable to trade at normal levels. The effects of this are already being seen, with some workers having been laid off in spite of government support.
“The UK government has responded to pressure and offered restaurants support but only in the short-term.
“We need to see more action to protect the employees of these businesses or we risk a hospitality unemployment crisis which could cause serious damage – not just for the workers laid off, but for everyone in Fife.
“With 11,750 workers employed in the sector, Fife’s economy depends on hospitality jobs, and Fife’s hospitality sector needs jobs for good.
“Extending the furlough scheme in this sector could provide a lifeline to thousands of workers.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scotland’s hospitality and events industry is vital to our economy and to the cultural identity of Scotland which is why we took immediate steps to address the financial impact of Covid-19 and our response – which now exceeds £2.3 billion – includes a support package specifically aimed at the tourism and hospitality sector.
“We have also now put in place a £230 million Restart the Economy capital stimulus package and are prioritising work to tackle unemployment.
“The risk of Covid-19 spreading in environments such as live events where a number of people are gathered together means, sadly, the format as we know it may have to adapt for some time to come.
“On Monday, as part of the first steps for the event sector recovery, we announced that drive-in events can open from Wednesday. We would encourage our local communities and events sector to work together to be creative and consider the possibilities of drive-in live events – from music concerts and local bingo nights, to family theatre and a reimagining of some of our most loved annual live events.
“We are continuing to explore means through which to support the events sector, including the Events Industry Advisory Group, recognising it is likely to be one of the last to fully restart, and will continue to press the UK Government over financial assistance schemes, to ensure they are delivering for businesses in Scotland – particularly for sectors that have been hard hit and unlikely to recover quickly.”