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Gloucestershire Business News

Staff 'frightened' by new redundancy terms

Waitrose staff across Gloucestershire are bracing for potential redundancies in the wake of changes to their employment terms which have left them "frightened".

The GMB Union, which represents hundreds of workers throughout the staff-owned John Lewis Parnership (JLP), says that a move to cut redundancy pay – to one week's compensation per year of service (the current provision being two weeks) – paves the way for imminent job cuts.

JLP, whose Gloucestershire stores are in Stroud, Cheltenham, Cirencester, Michaelwood M5 Services and in Mini Waitrose configuration near Stonehouse, denies the accusation, having stated its current two-week policy was "higher than typical market practice and comes at a very high cost".

JLP offers "partnership redundancy pay", it said, on top of statutory redundancy pay, as set by the government.

Nadine Houghton, GMB National Officer said: "Our members at JLP are worried; they are frightened about their futures. JLP discourages workers from joining unions, but many have still joined for exactly this eventuality."

She added: "We understand the works council meet this week and will be asked to rubber-stamp the redundancy changes as well as potentially be informed of job cuts. JLP are saying this is cost-neutral and savings will be passed directly into partner wages, but this is little consolation for any of our members who ends up losing our jobs."

Despite being classed as "partners" in the business, she said no consultation had been made on the change in terms.

As reported in the Telegraph newspaper, a leaked memo from within JLP said: "Against all of our competing priorities for investment, it's fair to say that the high cost of redundancy pay has been one of the things that's prevented us from moving as quickly as we've wanted to transform ourselves for the future, and has restricted our ability to invest more in pay."

JLP said its redundancy policy needed to be made more affordable in order to free up cash - and that most staff would never be affected by the change.

A spokesman added that the company offered a "generous and attractive range of benefits that includes a redundancy package, which will continue to be above the market".

In December, Punchline-Gloucester.com reported distress among staff at Waitrose's Stroud supermarket after they were handed "like-it-or-lump-it" changes to their shift patterns. At the end of January, JLP announced plans to cut up to 11,000 jobs  in the next five years.

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