Wilko shop workers are angry at new plans to axe jobs after learning managers had been paid “significant” bonuses, a top union official has said.
National GMB Union officer Roger Jenkins also said members would be balloted on strike action after it emerged management would be immune from controversial plans to cut sick pay.
He told StaffordshireLive there were plans for redundancies at 30 stores, with Burton’s branch among those impacted.
Wilko says it is consulting with workers in some stores “about different ways of working” and all staff – not just management – had been given “thank you” payments for the 2020/21 financial year.
The household goods and homeware retailer said it could not confirm how many jobs were affected, but there would be no changes at the Coalville or Uttoxeter branches.
Regional GMB reps will meet on Monday, February 8, to thrash out details of the ballot, including how long any action would last and when it would happen.
The ballot will run for 10-to-14 days and include members at all distribution centres and stores, including those in Burton Place Shopping Centre, Burton; High Street, Uttoxeter; and New Broadway, Coalville. Mr Jenkins said: “What’s come to light in the last couple of days is all management grades are excluded from the drop in sick pay and, on top of that, we have a redundancies situation at 30 stores and Wilko has just given a bonus to all levels of management.
“The lowest levels will get £250 and that goes up through the grades. We don’t have exact figures, but we’re talking about a significant amount of money for the highest level of management, who have all been working from home during the covid crisis while the hourly paid workers are out putting themselves at risk.
“We had a virtual meeting with union reps and there’s an awful lot of anger across the stores and a demand that our members react to this.
“I’ll be meeting with regional officers on Monday and we’ll be putting in some form of consultative ballot for industrial action for all our stores and distribution centres.”
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Wilko’s response in full
Currently, Wilko workers are entitled to be off sick on company sick pay on three occasions a year before reverting to statutory sick pay of £95.85.
But wants to reduce that to just one occasion from February 1.
A Wilko spokesman said: “We’re a family business that’s looked after our team for over 90 years through good times and bad.
“We’ve proudly stayed open throughout the pandemic to make sure families across the UK have access to the essentials they need, despite the difficult circumstances.
“We hugely appreciate the hard work and loyalty of all our team members and showing we care isn’t just something we do; it’s a core value. That’s why we’ve paid a ‘thank you’ bonus at all levels for the financial year 20/21.
“For the majority of our team members in stores and logistics, the ‘thank you’ payment was paid back in August.
“This was paid in addition to other benefits, including generous staff discount days and events, and full company sick pay for team members who are vulnerable or on coronavirus quarantine.
“For the management team, the ‘thank you’ payment was contingent on meeting specified targets at a company and individual level and was paid in January to all those who met the targets.
“We support team members who are vulnerable or on coronavirus quarantine; or have serious medical challenges.
“On top of that, we pay full pay for a period of sickness absence for any team member in any year.
“Having unsuccessfully worked with our union to try to reduce absence, we’re now changing our policy to reduce abuse of it by some team members.
“Going forwards second sickness absences in a year will be covered by statutory sick pay.
“This is over and above what’s provided by the majority of other retailers and it still protects our team members, our customer service and the financial health of our business.
“It allows us to invest where we should be investing in the future of Wilko and all the customers, team members and suppliers who rely on it.”
Addressing the claim redundancies were being made, the spokesman said: “In a constantly changing retailing market, we’re continually making changes across our business to make shopping with Wilko even better.
“As part of this, we’ve started talking to team members in some of our stores about different ways of working.
“This includes making sure we’ve the right team members in the right places at the right times, serving customers when and where they want to shop with us.”
“Not all our stores are in need of a proposed change to the way they operate.
“The Burton on Trent store is affected. For Uttoxeter and Coalville it’s business as usual. We’re currently in consultation with those team members affected so can’t confirm the total number of jobs impacted right now.”