The jobs slaughter is gathering pace.
Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM), which owns the Peacocks, Jaeger, Ponden Mill and Austin Reed as well as its own stores is close to collapse. Some 24,000 jobs are under threat.
The company has lodged a notice of intention to appoint administrators to look for potential buyers.
The move by EWM, owned by billionaire Philip Day, will see insolvency specialists spend ten days carrying out an urgent review ahead of further action.
All stores will continue trading for now, the company added, but “significant changes are expected”.
Day lives in Switzerland but has an office in Dubai and a castle in Cumbria. Last year he pocketed a £16 million dividend.
The company said that it has been hit hard by allegations that the retailer and several rivals failed to pay some Bangladeshi suppliers during lockdown. This was allegedly an attempt to cut costs for clothes that were unlikely to sell.
The firm denies the allegations.
EWM is not the only firm where job cuts are looming. Earlier this week Greene King brewers said 800 jobs would go. And Manchester Airport Group warned that 892 jobs could be cut across three British airports.
School trip specialist PGL has said it will cut 670 jobs—a quarter of its workforce.
Every day there is news of more jobs going or more bosses demanding pay cuts.
In that context chancellor Rishi Sunak’s latest announcement is a feather duster against a charging rhino.
The Tories’ furlough scheme is due to close at the end of this month. It will be replaced by a vastly inferior one paying workers less. The new scheme also has features that mean many companies will sack workers instead of retaining them on reduced hours.
Sunak said on Friday that spreading coronavirus lockdowns have forced him to advance an additional measure.
The government will pay bosses two thirds of the wages of staff in pubs, restaurants and other businesses if they have to close under new restrictions.
A pay cut of a third will push more workers into poverty, and the scheme won’t be nearly enough to save many jobs.
The Labour Party said that fewer than one in 15 jobs in shut-down businesses stand to benefit from the expansion of the job support scheme.
Workers in sectors like weddings, cinemas and events and conferences, which are not “legally closed” but have been forced to “shut in all but name”, will not enjoy protections from the programme,
More pain is coming.
The British economy grew less than expected in August, despite looser restrictions and a boost from Sunak’s coronavirus-spreading eat out scheme.
Gross domestic product grew by 2.1 percent in August compared with the previous month, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. However, this growth was much slower than the 4.6 percent forecast by economists polled by Reuters news agency.
Output was still 9.2 percent below pre-pandemic levels in February, signalling that a full recovery, was still distant.
Hospitality and catering are being hit particularly hard.
Sarah Coles of stock broker Hargreaves Lansdown said competition in these sectors could be a “bloodbath”. She said finding work is going to be “an exhausting battle against the odds” for many.
A forecast by the Resolution Foundation think tank found that unemployment among 18-29 year olds will not return to pre-pandemic levels for at least another four years.
It’s time for a fightback. But trade union leaders are too often simply accepting the cuts as inevitable.
The National Trust said this week that it was removing 1,300 jobs. But because this is less than the compulsory redundancies originally projected, one union said it was acceptable.
Mike Clancy, general secretary of the Prospect union, said, “The current plan, while devastating for those who are losing jobs they love, is a reasonable way to move forward, minimising job losses while hopefully safeguarding the National Trust’s future.”
As Cineworld mothballed its cinemas last week, threatening 5,500 job cuts, the workers’ union offered only warm words.
Head of the Bectu union Philippa Childs said, “It is our expectation that Cineworld will continue to fulfil its legal obligations with respect to its employees, retain as many as possible, and that those it has to let go will be done so on as positive terms as possible.”
This is a green light for ruthless bosses to carry on cutting.
It will take occupations, strikes and protests to stop mass unemployment and falling pay.