UNITE called on gig-economy retail fat cat Mike Ashley today to stop gambling with workers’ jobs after he passed the blame for further closures of House of Fraser branches onto landlords.
The owner of Sports Direct and Newcastle United, who recently bought the department store chain for £90 million when it was on the brink of going into administration, blamed “greedy landlords” for not giving him the prices he had demanded during negotiations this month.
Those talks have lead to some seven House of Fraser shops being saved from closure, including branches in Telford, Plymouth and London.
However, Mr Ashley warned that “time is running out” for the remainder of the company’s 59 shops, whose future remains unclear. He has pledged to save about 47 of them.
A company spokesman said: “Some landlords are being very collaborative in order to give us a chance at turning the business around, giving House of Fraser a lifeline and saving hundreds of jobs.
“However, some greedy landlords would rather see the stores close than help save the jobs of hundreds of people.
“We will continue to try and convince these landlords, but ultimately time is running out. Some closures will be announced.”
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said Mr Ashley was wrong to pass the buck onto landlords.
“Thousands of workers’ jobs are hanging by a thread while Mike Ashley plays poker with House of Fraser landlords and suppliers struggle to meet mounting debts for orders delivered but not paid for,” Mr Turner pointed out.
“Workers and their families are, of course, concerned that even if they keep their job, it will be their pay, terms and conditions that Mike Ashley will come for next in a transfer of Sports Direct practices to the retail giant.”
Mr Turner urged Mr Ashley to “immediately commit to maintaining the existing pay, conditions and pensions of House of Fraser workers, pay suppliers what’s owed to them, protect workers in warehousing and transport, while fulfilling his broken promises to ban zero-hours contracts in-store for his Sports Direct staff, demonstrating that a leopard can indeed change his spots.”
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