BHS swings axe over 3,000 store jobs

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The Independent Online
THE 3,000 BHS shop staff whose jobs were axed yesterday will share redundancy pay of about pounds 2m - rather less than the dollars 4m (pounds 2.8m) bonus awarded three months ago to their boss David Dworkin just before he announced he was leaving.

BHS, which sells clothing and household goods out of 136 stores, is axeing 800 full-time jobs and 2,300 Saturday jobs, but creating 2,000 new part-time posts instead.

Many sacked staff will be re-engaged, but overall BHS expects to employ 1,000 fewer people, reducing its complement to 11,000. The reduction is equivalent to 350 full-time staff.

BHS, formerly British Home Stores, is part of the Storehouse group that takes in Mothercare. It said the aim was to ensure well-trained staff were on hand at peak shopping times and to remove anomalies in the existing staff structure.

More staff will be enrolled on the National Vocational Qualification training schemes. It was not cost-effective to train Saturday girls working only a few hours a week. A BHS spokesman said: 'Until now we've been staffed on our busiest day by our least trained people.'

Among non-managerial staff, 20 job grades are to be abolished, replaced by the catch-all position of 'store associate'.

The shopworkers' union Usdaw said: 'This is another grim reminder of the slump facing Britain. It's not just DAF and British Coal. Permanent jobs in shops, mail order and food processing are going at an alarming rate.'

The need for greater staffing flexibility has prompted many retailers to switch from full-timers to part-timers. Part-timers are also cheaper to employ because of National Insurance and pension advantages.

Burton Group last month axed about 1,000 full-time positions in its Top Shop, Principles, Dorothy Perkins and other stores, creating up to 3,000 part-time positions instead. Other retail groups, including Littlewoods and Allied Maples, the furniture stores, have also shed labour.

Staff needs differ markedly between quiet periods and the peaks of lunchtimes, early evenings and Saturdays. Sunday opening has also increased the need for staffing flexibility.

A BHS spokesman said the savings on wages would more than pay for the modest redundancy bill in the first year. 'The vast majority of people going are the weekend staff who have very little redundancy entitlement,' he added.

Last month it emerged that Mr Dworkin, the American chief executive of Storehouse, was paid a dollars 4m performance-related bonus in December. He is also paid a salary of pounds 414,000. He is leaving shortly to run the US department stores chain Carter Hawley Hale.

Soon after arriving to run BHS in 1989 Mr Dworkin sacked 900 people in head office and the stores. He is credited with greatly improving profitability.

BHS shop staff are paid a basic wage of pounds 120 for a 39-hour week. This rises to pounds 133.50 when they successfully complete their basic training. Part-timers are paid the same hourly rate as full-timers.

Under incentive schemes introduced by Mr Dworkin, staff in the shop achieving the best monthly performance in its region receive an extra week's pay.

Steve Bedford, Storehouse development director, said: 'The changes announced today will enable us to provide the customer with the level of service she deserves at the times she needs it.

'We regret having to make redundancies, especially in current conditions, but I hope many of our staff will want to take up the new jobs we are creating.'

The group is still looking for a replacement for Mr Dworkin. It is also trying to sell its Blazer chain of menswear shops. Its shares have fallen 23p to 182p, after a 4p recovery yesterday, since news of Mr Dworkin's imminent departure leaked out two weeks ago.

(Photograph and graph omitted)