Axed clothing workers fight M&S in court

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The Independent Online

High Street giant Marks and Spencer is facing two separate legal challenges over a decision to axe its clothing contract with a British firm in favour of foreign suppliers. It will also find itself the subject of a Christmas protest by trade unionists.

High Street giant Marks and Spencer is facing two separate legal challenges over a decision to axe its clothing contract with a British firm in favour of foreign suppliers. It will also find itself the subject of a Christmas protest by trade unionists.

The legal action is being planned by William Baird, which has had a 30-year contract with M&S and faces the loss of 5,000 jobs in the wake of its termination. Now the company and the GMB trade union are considering mounting a legal challenge against the nation's best-known shopping chain, whose share price soared last week on speculation that it may be taken over. City sources have suggested that a £10bn offer for the troubled group could come from abroad. Trading in M&S shares hit a frenzy on Friday morning with 3.5 per cent of the company changing hands. Most of the buying was said to come from Switzerland.

The legal actions against the company centre on its practice of stipulating that contractors work exclusively for Marks and Spencer. The GMB says M&S's actions could be "anti-competitive and disproportionate to the needs of both the retailer and the supplier".

The GMB also plans to take its protest to the high street by launching its so-called "Ghosts of Christmas Past" national tour. Three "ghosts" - Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future - are to visit M&S stores up and down the country to highlight the impact of the company's decision to source most of its clothing abroad.

The GMB's national secretary for clothing and textiles, Des Farrell, said last night: "The decision to axe the contract could have only one impact on Baird's but M&S were clearly unconcerned about the consequences. They are guilty of an act of cold-blooded betrayal."

Clothing workers facing the sack have already been backed by a national GMB campaign, including a postcard mailing urging orders to be channelled into the stricken factories.

Mr Farrell said: "M&S say their customers don't care where their clothes are made. GMB clothing workers will be on Britain's high streets lobbying M&S customers to demonstrate that they do care. We need to mobilise consumer power to save these workers' jobs."

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