GMB Call For Shoppers To Press Lord Wolfson Over Refusal To Pay Living Wage To Next Retail Staff As Profits Rise To £782 Million
By asserting that there are a lot of people for whom £6.70 is enough to live on Lord Wolfson shows himself to be an out of touch arrogant hypocrite says GMB.
GMB, the union for retail staff, is calling on shoppers to step up pressure on Lord Wolfson, chair of NEXT, over his refusal to pay staff a Living Wage, set at £7.85 across the country and £9.20 in London.
Lord Wolfson, announcing annual profits of £782m, criticised those calling for firms to pay staff a Living Wage. See notes to editors for text of report in Daily Mirror dated 20th March 2015.
NEXT employ 52,533 employees in 2014 (full time equivalent – 28,568) at over 500 stores, call centres and warehouses in the UK and Ireland.
NEXT currently pay £6.70 per hour to those 21 and over and £5.84 to those aged 18 to 20. GMB is aware of that many jobs are for 12.5 hours per week or less in some stores. Some store staff may get a bonus which the company claim can amount to an additional 4% to 7% on hourly rates. This will leave the majority of staff well below a living wage of £7.85 per hour and £9.20per hour in London.
NEXT said January 2014 that it was generating more cash than can be invested in the business so it paid a special £300m dividend to shareholders.
Last year GMB supported a national tour with musician Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott to put public pressure on retailer NEXT to pay staff at least £7.85 per hour and £9.20 per hour in London as a step towards the £10 per hour living set by GMB Congress.
Mick Rix, GMB National Officer for retail staff, said “By asserting that there are a lot of people for whom £6.70 is enough to live on multi-millionaire Tory peer Lord Wolfson shows himself to be an out of touch arrogant hypocrite.
He could have diverted the special £300m paid out to shareholders to pay for jobs with longer hours per week and to pay staff a living wage but he choose not to.
Shoppers should step up pressure on NEXT to made work pay. If this was done, staff would not need their meagre wages to be topped up by taxpayers with family tax credits and housing benefits so as to make ends meet.
GMB members tell us that in their experience you need at least £10 an hour and a full working week to have a decent life free from benefits and tax credits. Less than £10 an hour means just existing not living. It means a life of isolation, unable to socialise. It means a life of constant anxiety over paying bills and of borrowing from friends, family and pay day loan sharks just to make ends meet.
NEXT says that it is over-subscribed when offering jobs. This is a reflection on the level of youth unemployment across Europe not that NEXT jobs are so good.”
Contact: Kamaljeet Jandu, GMB National Inclusion & Diversity Officer on 07956 237178 or Mick Rix GMB National Officer on 07971 268343 or Martin Smith GMB National Organiser on 07974 251722 or GMB press office on 07921 289880 or 07974 251823.
Notes to editors
Copy of article in Daily Mirror dated 20th March 2015:
Multimillionaire boss of Next slams Living Wage campaign: '£6.70-an-hour enough to live on'
Tory peer Lord Wolfson, worth an estimated £112million, criticised those calling for firms to pay staff a Living Wage, set at £7.85 across the country and £9.15 in London
The Tory peer boss of fashion giant Next was slammed yesterday for claiming its £6.70-an-hour pay was “enough to live on”.
Lord Wolfson said the salary – just 3% above the minimum wage – was a decent amount for “a lot” of its staff.
He is worth an estimated £112million and earns a basic salary of £350 an hour.
Critics slammed his comments which came on the day Next announced its annual profits were up 12.5% to £782million.
Mick Rix, of the GMB union, called him “an out-of-touch arrogant hypocrite”.
Lord Wolfson criticised those calling for firms to pay staff a Living Wage, set at £7.85 across the country and £9.15 in London.
He said: “A living wage for a student is different for someone supporting a family. I think there are a lot of people for whom £6.70 is enough to live on.”
Lord Wolfson also said the clothing chain had 30 applicants for every job advertised and claimed increasing wages would prevent it opening more stores.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “First a Conservative Chancellor tells families they’ve never had it so good.
"Then a Conservative lord tells his workers that poverty pay is good enough for them.”
Luke Hildyard, of the High Pay Centre, said: “Lord Wolfson sounds dangerously like a pub bore sounding off without knowing what they’re talking about.”
Rhys Moore, director of the Living Wage Foundation, said: “Thousands of Next’s staff need to claim benefits just to make ends meet. Very profitable companies are, in effect, receiving a taxpayer subsidy.”
Next’s £6.70-an-hour starting pay applies to workers aged 21 and over.
But it said once bonuses were taken into account, the average staff pay was £7.24, or 11% above the minimum wage.
The Government this week announced plans to increase the minimum wage to £6.50. Lord Wolfson pledged to increase Next’s minimum pay at the same time.
The Mirror revealed in November last year how Next was offering hundreds of jobs to Polish workers weeks before advertising them in Britain.
Baron Wolfson of Aspley Guise
Simon Wolfson is the son of former Next chairman David Wolfson.
The 47-year-old studied law at Cambridge University but joined Next in 1991 as a sales assistant.
At just 33, he was made the youngest chief executive of a FTSE 100 company.
He is a prominent Tory supporter, having donated to David Cameron’s 2005 leadership campaign.
The bulk of his £112million is tied up in Next shares, amassed over the years.
Wolfson is one half of a glamorous Tory power couple — the other half being Eleanor Shawcross, George Osborne’s economic adviser and daughter of chairman of the Charity Commission William Shawcross.
Wolfson’s pay and perks package for 2013/14 was worth £4.6million.