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17 Oct 2021

Tom Wall, The Guardian

UK: Clarks warehouse workers accuse company of 'betraying' philanthropic roots with 'fire and rehire' plans

"You’re betraying your Quaker roots: fury at Clarks’ ‘fire and rehire’ plan", 17 October 2021

Warehouse workers for Clarks have accused the...shoemaker of betraying its philanthropic roots by threatening them with the sack if they don’t accept significant pay cuts.

More than 100 staff in Clarks’ main distribution centre in Street, Somerset...claim the firm is seeking to cut their wages by almost 15% from the average of £11.16 an hour to £9.50 an hour by using controversial fire and rehire tactics.

The workers, who have been on strike for two weeks, have been told they must sign new contracts or risk losing their jobs without redundancy pay. They also face cuts to sick pay and reduced redundancy packages as well as the scrapping of paid breaks...

Some newer warehouse workers are being paid less than long-standing staff, he said: “They should bring their pay up to ours.”...

Clarks said the pandemic had led to turnover dropping by 44% and record losses of £180m last year. “Clarks did not undertake this lightly, but the proposals are part of a company-wide plan to secure future viability, with a view to protecting over 4,000 jobs in the UK,” it said. It added that terminating contracts on current terms and offer re-engagement on new terms would be “the very last resort”. It said the changes would mean more than half of the workers at the distribution centre would get a pay rise to £9.50 an hour. It said affected workers would be protected from any pay reduction until 2023 by top-up payments.