Tears and beers for the shocked casualties

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A WAKE was in progress last night at the Champion pub just around the corner from Burton's Oxford Street headquarters, writes Lisa Vaughan.

More than 30 employees - and ex-employees - of the fashion retailer clustered around the bar and tables. Some were crying and hugging each other. Others talked, sipped pints of beer and looked gloomy. One woman carried a half-full black dustbin liner, the traditional totem of the hastily sacked worker ordered to clear her desk.

Perhaps out of lingering loyalty or depression, few felt like talking about their ordeal. One who did, a 29-year-old personnel manager at Top Shop, said that after four years with Burton he was called in by his boss yesterday.

'I'm usually the one that does it - tells people they're losing their jobs,' he said. He was hardly surprised because speculation in the press had prepared head office staff for the fact that something was about to happen.

He said employees were talked to by their bosses and would be back at work on Monday or Tuesday to see if there were suitable opportunities for them elsewhere in the group.

'I've got hope,' he said. 'I think there will be something else for me. There are people crying in here because they haven't seen anything like this before and think that's it.'

Another young employee said the company asked staff not to comment to the press because it was unfair to those who did not know if they had a future with Burton.