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Waterstones staff petition for furlough raise

In the UK, a group of current and former Waterstones staff is calling on the bookselling chain to top-up furloughed booksellers’ pay to the minimum wage, after accounts showed the chain’s owner, Elliott Advisors, paid 107 staff a total of £93.3 million (A$167m), reports the Bookseller.

The petition warned that booksellers are ‘facing misery and financial insecurity’ after being furloughed and seeing their pay fall below the minimum wage.

‘Waterstones’ owners, Elliott Advisors, have just paid £93m in bonuses to a handful of London staff and look set to post some of the strongest returns on investments in a decade,’ the petition reads. ‘On top of that we keep hearing news that the bookselling industry is growing. So further steps are needed to make sure that Waterstones staff have enough to survive these difficult times. The company should use its position to campaign for greater access to support and protection for all.’

Waterstones CEO Kate Skipper told the Bookseller she had ‘great sympathy’ with the campaign and held out the prospect of pay rises in the future, adding that furlough had been the only way to avoid ‘mass redundancies’ during the pandemic.

Waterstones decided to close its stores during the UK’s current lockdown without offering a click-and-collect service, leading to the furloughing of many staff. Skipper said: ‘To state the obvious, the furlough scheme was introduced by the government for businesses badly compromised by the pandemic, where the alternative was redundancy. For businesses like ours, experiencing enforced and prolonged closure, furlough has been the lifeline which has prevented mass redundancies. I say this in no way to diminish the stress and strain that being on furlough creates, nor to ignore the financial hardship that accompanies it.’

The petition currently has nearly 1500 signatories.


Category: International news