BAD LORD, Welfare Scrounger!

Emblazoned on the front-page of today’s Leicester Mercury is the somewhat inspiring headline “GOOD LORD! Next boss Lord Wolfson is due a £2.4m bonus — but hands it all to his employees.”

Tory peer Simon Wolfson, we are told, is pleased to reward his staff for helping the Enderby business become a multi-billion-pound success — with gross profits of £1.12 billion for the 12 months to January 2013. But don’t feel that Wolfson is too hard done-by as a result of his “generosity,” as while Wolfson earned a whopping £4.6 million in the year prior to January 2013, the average wages for his staff were less than £9,571 per worker per year.

Local Tory MP for Blaby, Andrew Robathan, whose constituency includes the NEXT headquarters and Fosse Park store, reported in the Mercury puff-piece that: “Simon Wolfson has a very good track record with NEXT and I’m delighted he has decided to make such a generous gesture.”

Martin Traynor, managing director of Leicestershire Chamber of Commerce even “said it was the first time he had heard of the boss of a major plc doing such a thing.”

This is overstating the case somewhat, as just last month the Daily Mail (whose parent company owned the Mercury till last year), reported that the John Lewis Partnership plc shared £210.8 million of their profits amongst their 84,000 staff. This was reported to be equivalent to a 17 per cent pay rise for an average employee.

Compare this to NEXT, whose headlining generosity was equivalent to a 1 per cent pay increase for staff who have worked for NEXT for more than three years; with the remaining 30,000, mainly young NEXT staff with less than 3 years’ service, receiving no share in this “bumper” bonus.

GMB Regional Secretary, Paul Maloney, said “PR gestures from Tory peer Lord Wolfson sharing £2.4m of his already sky high pay with some 35% of NEXT employees is no substitute for paying staff a living wage to all 55,000 staff.”

Mick Rix, GMB National Officer for retail staff, added: “NEXT CEO plans to share some of his ‘high roller’ wages with his ‘breadline Britain’ workforce. NEXT staff do not need charity hand outs from Lord Wolfson or his board. NEXT makes huge profits from clothing made in the third world. NEXT should employ workers in the UK on proper working hours and pay a living wage.”

Moreover, as GMB, the union for retail staff, demonstrated in a report published just a couple of weeks ago, “729 or nearly 80% of the 935 current job vacancies at NEXT in the UK and Ireland are for part time staff being offered 12 hours and under per week.” For example, of the 68 jobs advertised in the East Midlands 53 were for jobs offering workers contracts for 12 hours and under per week.

GMB make clear, “Only 53 of the 935 total vacancies or 5.7% pay wages above the £144 per week threshold for employers to pay national insurance contributions. The majority of the jobs offer pay between £5.08 and £6.21 per hour. 55 of the jobs are for apprentices with no pay rates identified above the national minimum wage of £2.65 per hour.”

GOOD LORD INDEED! Simon Wolfson is just another corporate profiteer intent on destroying the lives of  British workers and the welfare state to boot (which he does by funding all manner of right-wing think tanks).

It should then come as no surprise that Wolfson’s politics, like his wealth, runs in the family. His father being NEXT founder, Baron Wolfson of Sunningdale; a man who had the privilege of serving as Margaret Thatcher’s Chief of Staff from 1979 to 1985.

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