Conference delegates vent fury at company’s former owner
RETAIL tycoon Sir Philip Green was accused of ripping off thousands of British Home Stores (BHS) workers yesterday when he sold the company for £1 after leaving it billions of pounds in the red.
Members of shopworkers’ union Usdaw laid into the BHS former owner during their annual conference in Blackpool this week.
Their angry attacks came shortly before MPs called on Mr Green to appear before a cross-party committee to face questions over his possible involvement in the retail chain’s collapse.
In 2005, Mr Green paid his wife, who is registered as a Monaco resident, a reported £1.2 billion in BHS dividends.Due to Monaco’s limited fiscal laws, the couple avoided an estimated £285 million in British taxes.
Commenting on the unfolding BHS crisis, Usdaw member Iain Dalton told delegates: “In effect, what [Mr Green] has done is stolen the jobs, the security from retail workers in that company to feather his own nest. It’s absolutely disgusting.“And the worst thing is he got knighted the following year after doing it.”
BHS was sold by the tycoon for a risible £1 to consortium Retail Acquisitions last year. The company’s finances have now sunk £1.3 billion into the red, including a pension fund deficit of £571 million.
Mr Dalton said the Tories’ relationship with Mr Green was a “joke, frankly,” referring to the businessman being invited to advise David Cameron’s government on money-saving strategies.
“We seem to reward these people who are siphoning money out of our economy, instead of making sure that money is getting used for the benefit of all,” added the Leeds delegate.
Pat Buttle, from the union’s divisional council, echoed the sentiment, saying Mr Green and the Tories were able to get away with “absolute murder.
“These people are ruining our whole lives and our economy, attacking the working class in this country and it has got to stop. We’ve got to make it stop.”
After the insolvency of BHS was announced, Topshop owner Mr Green was said to have offered £80 million to reduce the endangered pension fund’s deficit.
Bedford representative Richard Fuller said: “If that sale was done on the understanding that it was avoiding a responsibility for those pension losses, then that £1 he received was equivalent to 30 pieces of silver in his betrayal of the employees and pensioners of BHS.”
Labour MP John Mann suggested that the millionaire be stripped of his knighthood if dividends were not paid back.