What NEXT: Tories Close Pay Gap?

Tory-owned high street clothes store NEXT is “axing a Sunday pay bonus for hundreds of long-serving staff” all in the name of equality. After almost ten years of making record-breaking profits NEXT bosses are determined that their best paid workers should earn as little as their lower paid colleagues.

After all NEXT fat-cats argue, why should long-service and a contract stand between pay parity. A gap that was generated by Next bosses in 2009 when they unilaterally decided to terminate the 50% premium payment for all new employees.

NEXT’s latest profitable attack on their workers — which will see some already poorly paid staff around £1,000 a year worse off – will no doubt boost this years shareholder dividends. A spokesman for the company said to the Leicester Mercury earlier this week: “NEXT’s proposal to drop the Sunday Premium was communicated to the relevant staff in February and the proposal has been accepted by 99 per cent of them.”

Tory cartoon

However, in the press release that GMB (the union representing many NEXT workers) sent to the media a few days ago, the union made it clear how such a front attack on workers pay and conditions was actually forced through by greedy management. Mick Rix, GMB National Officer for retail workers, explained:

The day after the general election GMB started to get calls from members employed by NEXT saying managers were asking them to agree to the removal of the Sunday premium. They were warned failure to do so could result in redundancy and many told us that they felt bullied into signing it. After the consultation process finished on the proposal on the 22 March the staff contracted to work on a Sunday heard nothing more. The staff rightly felt that NEXT would delay any announcement until after the general election in case the Lord Wolfson, chief executive received any further negative publicity that could blow back on the Tory Party.

According to NEXT’s laughable spin on events: “The key reason behind streamlining pay at Next for working on a Sunday is ‘fairness’ between colleagues.” What NEXT? Will NEXT management be bullying their older staff (aged 21 and over) to accept ‘fairness’ in wages between colleagues by accepting a drop in pay from £6.70 per hour to £5.84 per hour — the latter being the wage of their employees aged 18 to 20? Such a move would certainly boost NEXT’s profits.

Yet in contrast to the race to the bottom being orchestrated by companies like NEXT, it is obvious that all workers should be entitled to be paid a living wage. Outside of London such a living wage is currently set at £7.85 an hour, which is still too little, which is precisely why the Socialist Party is supporting union-led campaigns to raise the living wage to £10 per hour.

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