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150 Voisins jobs saved thanks to government’s support offer

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AROUND 150 staff working at one of the Island’s largest stores have been told they will be keeping their jobs after the government announced an additional £100 million in funding.

Gerald Voisin

The Chamber of Commerce launched a stinging attack on the Council of Ministers, and specifically Chief Minister John Le Fondré, for failing to provide adequate support to businesses before Thursday’s announcement.

Gerald Voisin, chief executive of Voisins, said the measures – which will pay around 80% of Jersey companies’ wages, up to a maximum of £1,600 a month – would save a significant number of other jobs across the retail sector.

The money comes on top of an existing £180 million of business-support funding, which includes a £50 million business loan-guarantee scheme.

Mr Voisin said: ‘We are making none of our staff redundant and will be able to pay all of our staff their full pay for the duration of this.

‘We are planning for six months of disruption from March – three months of severe disruption and three months of recovery.

‘Today I was able to tell my staff they will be paid for April, May and June. They were naturally very relieved. It has been a worrying time for everybody.’

Mr Voisin added that his business, like others, would still lose a significant sum of money but that it would enable them to survive.

‘The important thing to remember is that we are going to come out of this and we will be able to get through it,’ he said.

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Meanwhile, Simon Soar, chief executive of the Jersey Hospitality Association, said he was ‘over the moon’ but added he was aware of some businesses which had already failed.

‘We are over the moon to see such a high level of support from the government, who have really come through at last, but it is a shame to see that it has been too late for some and we will have lost a number of businesses. However, there will be a significant number that will be able to carry on,’ he said.

‘We are doing absolutely everything to keep that number [closed businesses] as small as we can and when this crisis is over I will be asking Islanders to support the hospitality sector as much as they can and to embrace it.

‘They will need the support if they are to last through to next year – 75 years ago the community came together and we will have to do it again.’

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Mr Soar praised Economic Development Minister Lyndon Farnham for ‘working around the clock’ and said the amount of money being given to businesses by other governments was irrelevant.

‘It is not the same level of support that businesses are receiving in the UK but I also realise the government needs to look to the future with this.

‘If it is enough to keep businesses going then I am happy with that,’ he said.

‘It is not a key point to look at how much is being given out, it is about whether it is enough to help people survive.

‘That carries more weight than anything else.’

Chef Mark Jordan, owner of the Mark Jordan on the Beach restaurant, said the money would enable him to keep his staff employed and his doors open for takeaways.

And he added that he had received around £5,000 in a single day from loyal customers buying gift vouchers to help support his business.

‘Up until now we would only be getting £200 a week for our staff which, to be honest, would not fund anything and would not help anybody,’ he said.

‘So the news we had yesterday is a huge improvement. We have been doing anything to try and not make our staff redundant – the money makes a huge difference for us.

‘I am not saying that we might not struggle in the future but for the time being it is a huge benefit.’

Mr Jordan added that despite receiving funding, businesses needed to adapt to the challenging commercial environment.

‘We have reviewed what we have done and we have gone from a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant to a takeaway,’ he said.

‘We are now open seven days a week too so we can spread staff thinly so they all have space and so there is no cross-contamination and the funding is enabling me to do that.’

Meanwhile, the government officially announced details of a business rent-payment support scheme.

Anyone requiring this service should email p.holdings@gov.je to outline their circumstances.

Ed Taylor

By Ed Taylor
Journalist

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