House of Fraser takeover: Unions warn of job fears as Mike Ashley buys collapsing department store

Unite official said discount sports retailer is a 'leopard that has not changed its spots' when it comes to a poor record on pay and employment practices

Caitlin Morrison
Friday 10 August 2018 12:53
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Unions have warned House of Fraser staff are facing “great uncertainty and worry” over jobs and working conditions after the collapsed department store chain was sold to Mike Ashley's Sports Direct.

The upmarket retailer called in administrators on Friday morning, with EY appointed to run the process. A deal with Mr Ashley was announced hours after the company collapsed.

Sports Direct has paid £90m to take over all of House of Fraser’s UK stores, stock and branding.

However, no detail has been provided on how many stores and jobs will be saved, with experts predicting that some branches will be sold off separately, while others will be closed.

Unions have also raised concerns around Sports Direct’s track record on employment practices. The discount chain’s Shirebook warehouse was famously compared to a “Victorian workhouse” by MPs who led an inquiry into the company’s treatment of workers.

Scott Lennon, Unite regional officer, said: ““Sports Direct is a leopard that has not changed its spots and we hope that its poor record on pay and employment practices are not transferred to the House of Fraser.

“Sports Direct’s record at the Shirebrook warehouse operation in the East Midlands has been dreadful and, despite the recent terrible publicity, wages remain at the minimum legally payable, and the terms and employment conditions are threadbare.

Mr Lennon added: “We fear for jobs and employment conditions at the House of Fraser going forward. The staff are entering a period of great uncertainty and worry.

“Ministers need to wake up to what is happening to hard working employees who have minimal employment protections in 2018 Britain.”

Dave Gill, Usdaw’s national officer, said: “House of Fraser staff have been largely frozen out of the discussions about the future business so far and they were horrified to see the company fall into administration this morning.

“So we welcome a buyer for the whole business being found so quickly, which offers the best opportunity to save jobs. To be successful the new owners must listen to the staff and engage them fully in turning this company around.”

He added: “It is crucial that staff are treated with dignity and fairness through the transfer process and that is best done by the new owner recognising Usdaw as the trade union for House of Fraser staff. We are seeking urgent talks with Sports Direct. In the meantime we are providing our members with the support, advice and representation they require at this very difficult time.”

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