Coronavirus: Premier Inn hotel refused rooms to lorry drivers transporting food, haulage firm boss claims

NewsBusiness

A branch of the hotel chain allegedly told the boss of a haulage firm it did not class lorry drivers as key workers

Tuesday, 31st March 2020, 9:30 pm Updated Tuesday, 31st March 2020, 9:31 pm Lorry drivers are helping to keep the British economy going, the haulage firm owner said (Photo: Getty)

A branch of Premier Inn failed to recognise lorry drivers tasked with transporting supplies to supermarkets as key workers and refused them rooms. Premier Inn is one of hundreds of hotels to have opened its doors across the country to people classified as key workers. Individuals involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery are among those classed as key workers, according to Government guidelines.

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Truck drivers turned away

However, the owner of a haulage firm responsible for transporting supplies to supermarkets in Scotland has said a Premier Inn branch refused to let him book rooms for five of his drivers as the business did not class them as key workers. David Osborne, owner of Expert Distribution, which operates a fleet of 20 trucks nationwide, said he phoned the hotel and attempted to book his employees rooms but was told by a member of staff that truck drivers were not on its list of key workers. "I spoke to the manager and explained we're truck drivers delivering food.

She said 'You might be on the Government list but not on the Premier Inn list,'" Mr Osborne said. "I couldn't believe the stance - it was disappointing. [Haulage workers] are helping to keep the economy going."

'Unfortunate mix-up'

Mr Osborne booked his staff into a smaller independent hotel and said he had been heartened by offers from local people offering his drivers rooms in their own homes, a shower and a hot meal. A Premier Inn spokeswoman said there had been an "unfortunate mix up" at the hotel and that the company had apologised to Mr Osborne. She added: "We do identify truck workers as key workers, we would just ask people to bring their ID when they check in."

Hotels providing support

Almost 200 hotels have made over 20,000 beds available around the UK for NHS staff and other vital workers following a call from the trade body UK Hospitality. Hotel businesses of all sizes, from individual sites to national chains, are helping to house key workers being deployed to areas of high need.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality said: "The hospitality sector has been devastated by the crisis and hotels have been forced to weather a huge blow. Many companies have already looked to help by providing beds and it is great that so many more have answered [our] call to provide support where it is needed most. "Housing key workers in hotels that are otherwise sitting empty will, we hope, ease the strain on those services battling to tackle the spread of the coronavirus.

It could also help save hotels at very real risk of going out of business and keep people in work at a time when many people's jobs are at risk," Ms Nicholls added.

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