Usdaw’s John Hannett says the news is ‘devastating’ for 11,000 workers
FAMILIAR high-street retailer British Home Stores confirmed it would be going into administration yesterday as unions demanded the government step in to save the jobs and pensions of 11,000 people.
The chain is the biggest to go bust since 2008, when Woolworths filed for bankruptcy.
While up to 30 retailers are reported to have shown interest in buying BHS’s 164 stores, its pensions deficit of £571 million is unlikely to be picked up.
Administrators Duff & Phelps confirmed in a statement that due to contractual payments being broken, BHS directors had “no alternative but to put the group into administration to protect it for all creditors.
“The group will continue to trade as usual whilst the administrators seek to sell it as a going concern.”
The company’s overall debt was estimated at £1.3 billion, which according to BHS owner Dominic Chappell “was a combination of bad trading and not being able to raise enough money from the property portfolio.”
Shopfloor workers union Usdaw general secretary John Hannett said the news was “devastating.”
The union, which is not recognised by BHS management, urged “the company to change their attitude to trade unions and begin a dialogue with us at this difficult and worrying time.”
Mr Hannett said: “We don’t want to see BHS staff locked out of discussions, sent to the back of the queue of creditors and treated like fixtures and fittings, as happened at Woolworths.
“The government needs to intervene now to protect taxpayers from picking up the bill for redundancy payments and safeguarding the pension protection fund.
“We are in touch with our members working in BHS to reassure them that we will provide the support, advice and representation they require.”
Clearly distraught over the news, Blackpool BHS cashier Tracy-Anne Smith told the Star she was not anticipating the collapse at all.
Her colleague, who preferred to remain anonymous, said she had been at the shop for over eight years. “I remember being a kid and coming here with my parents,” she said, while processing a customer’s order.