Wilkos: A Worrying Development and a Presentation.

The Wilkinson’s campaign reaches some sort of head tomorrow evening, as the petition is handed into Broxtowe Borough Full Council and the issue debated in the chamber. If you can make it, do. Show your support and lets fill the public benches to show the Council how much the store means to Beeston, and show support for the 56 workers with a highly uncertain future.
The debate will be taking place beneath a cloud, sadly. The latest news on Wilkinson’s return and the protection of staff jobs is pretty miserable, and it’s hard not to think that Wilko’s Head Office, despite repeated protestations to the contrary, care little for anything but profit.

Despite our campaign, and 3,000+ signatures on the petition, Wilkinsons still hasn’t got together a new site. This is despite repeated promises that they are ‘fully committed’ to Beeston. Now it appears that what was once described to be ‘a brief pause in trading’ -several months, say- is now more likely anything up to 5 years. A five year absence is another way of saying ‘never’, as nature abhors a vacuum, other stores will rush to fill the gap in the market generated, and they’ll struggle to return. Tesco’s must be wetting their pants.

While Wilkinson’s are happy to pick up a large compensation package for vacating in april – they asked for a frankly astronomical figure sources tell me was just shy of £40 million, though got far less- the treatment of their loyal workforce has been appalling.

Staff have been offered paltry redundancy packages unless they are willing to relocate. If relocated, they are automatically demoted to a lower position, have to agree to a three-year pay-freeze and stump up the expenses incurred in travelling to the five branches that they will be absorbed into themselves. This is totally unfair. Why such tight-fistedness to staff famous in Beeston for being friendly, helpful and fine ambassadors of the brand?

It’s not like Wilkos is in any sort of finacial strait. Turnover is well over £1.5 billion,  Profits are soaring, £65 million in 2010, and when the 2011 figures are released, expect to see that exceeded considerably. The economic downturn suits Wilkos business model well, as shoppers become more concious of bargains on the high street. Each worker generates on average £3,000 pure profit for the company, more than most large retailers.

The highest paid director took home a salary of £1.3 million in 2010, approximately 93 times the salary of the average Wilkinson’s employee. As the coffers swell, this renumeration will probably swell as well. But not for the relocated staff. Three years of reduced, frozen pay-packets await, with the cost of getting to work each day soaring.

Wilkos has, over it’s 82 years of existence, built a brand image many stores would die for. Friendly, community-centred and annually donates 1% of it’s profits to charity. I love the place, as you all seem to, judgoing by the near-unanimous approval of the petition. Yet they are now squandering this goodwill by shoddy treatment of the workers, and by dragging their feet on relocation, shoddy treatment of all Beestonians.

This needs to be challenged. Come along tomorrow, the meeting starts on the dot at 7pm, so arrive some time before at the Town Hall at the top of Foster Road. Just up from Wilkos, fittingly.