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Tycoon's pledge

Branson to underpin Virgin jobs in battle to survive

Virgin Hotels Branson

Sir Richard Branson at the launch of his Edinburgh hotel

Sir Richard Branson is promising to invest £215 million into his Virgin group to protect jobs, admitting in a blog post the business is in a “massive battle to survive”.

He described COVID-19 as “the most significant crisis the world has experienced” in his lifetime.

The 69-year-old wrote: “Our airlines have had to ground almost all their planes; our cruise line has had to postpone its launch; our health clubs and hotels have had to close their doors and all bookings to our holiday company have stopped.

“Our people have and, will always be, my number one priority. It is their future job security and their well-being that I am 100 per cent focusing on, in these frightening and unprecedented times.”

Sir Richard, whose businesses employing more than 70,000 people in 35 countries, said recovery would “depend critically” on governments implementing the support programmes which they had announced.

His Virgin Hotels division is building a hotel straddling Victoria Street and Cowgate in Edinburgh.

His commitment to supporting jobs follows criticism from Labour that Virgin Atlantic had told staff to take eight weeks unpaid leave. Gyms tycoon Duncan Bannatyne also criticised the company’s chairman for demanding a taxpayer bailout.

However, Sir Richard said the move would “drastically reduce costs without job losses”, adding that the cost to staff would be spread over six months.

His comments came as British Airways’ chief executive Alex Cruz hinted at job cuts and said he will waive his salary for the next two months.

In a letter to all BA staff seen by Sky News, Mr Cruz said “of course job security is top of mind” and that the carrier is doing “everything we can to protect as many jobs as we can” during the COVID-19 crisis.

But he added that the company was “working hand in hand with [the unions] to look at all the options including the government employment assistance scheme”.

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