Restaurants on wage compensation: Too little, for too short a time period

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Catering facilities. Source: Merilin Pärli/ERR

The Unemployment Insurance Fund's (Töötukassa) proposed wage compensation scheme is comparable with last year's solution, but covers one month instead of two. Catering companies are not satisfied with the current solution, and hope that supporting those sectors damaged by the restrictions will continue.

Whereas a week ago, several catering institutions planned to continue with catering only during the weekends, then with the latest restrictions, they are forced to close their doors at the weekends too, and serve food only on weekdays (takeaways and drive-through restaurants are still permissible -ed.).

"When the government informs about the restriction three days before having to close the doors, then we can't go and tell our employees that they should go off on a month-and-a-half long vacation, we don't have anything to offer you," owner of Salt and Riviera Palais Brasserie, Tiina Kõresoo, said.

The small Tallinn dining restaurant Salt says it is going to try to keep its head above the water via takeaways and lunch specials. Meanwhile, the Brasserie is situated in the Maarjamäe History Museum, near Pirita. Since museums are closed in any case, it wasn't viable to keep the restaurant open, Kõresoo told ERR. This means that there is no work to offer to staff.

"Around half of Salt's employees are now at home, while all of Brasserie's staff is at home," Kõresoo said.

Ville Jehe owns three restaurants: Pegasus, in Tallinn's Old Town, F-hoone in the hip Telliskivi area, and Ülo in nearby Kalamaja.

"The situation varies for different restaurants. We decided to keep Ülo and F-hoone working, but we still wavering regarding Pegasus; we'll see what the new week brings. Turnover will probably be at 10 percent when we take away nights and weekends," Jehe said.

Martti Siimann, owner of several more restaurants: Paju Villa, Tuljak, Noa and Oko gives a deep sigh.

"Oh God. We'll make breakfasts and lunches, and see if we can escape that way so that we don't have to close anything, even if we want to. We wouldn't want to give up any of our staff, but we have no jobs to offer them," Siimann said.

In his opinion, the government could have closed all restaurants for a period of time.

Telliskivi gallery Fotografiska, which had to close the museum entirely and planned to continue with catering only on weekends, similarly had to rethink their decision. This week, they have been completely closed, but are planning to offer week-day lunches.

Commenting on the wage compensation

Unemployment Insurance Fund council chairman Peep Peterson has confirmed that the government is working on draft legislation on the wage compensation provided for sectors in need. The Unemployment fund will be compensating 60 percent of employees' wages (down from 70 percent under last year's measure), up to a maximum of €1,000.

Catering entrepreneurs don't consider the month-long wage compensation to be of much help, however. There are more expenses than just wages.

"This support, it is not serious. It can't be taken seriously. The situation is much worse than a year ago, but the measure is weaker. It is incomprehensible," Ville Jehe said.

"Clearer messages are needed, if and what subsidies will come and when. And if nothing is forthcoming, it should be stated as well, so as to not keep up the empty hope that those who spend their time and energy and then find out in a month that they are still alone and quit. Particularly pessimistic information should flow especially fast, directly and clearly. If a plan does not exist, or does not work, and fails, or if there is no money, it should have been noted a long time ago that this is the last of the support this year, and we could have made do with this information," Jehe said.

Martti Siimann criticizes the government for again hitting all entrepreneurs in oen fell swoop, regardless of how much an entrepreneur has contributed to the state budget in the form of taxes.

Fotografiska's manager Margit Aasmäe said that as the Unemployment fund gives 60 percent of the wage, the employer still needs to find the other 40 percent, in a situation where there is no income.

Tiina Kõresoo also doesn't consider the compensation plan sufficient.

"At the moment, I don't know what will happen next. We are living one-day-at-a-time, as we have been already. But the blow that just came is the most painful and most difficult. What will happen to restaurant culture after this, I can't imagine," she said.

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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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