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.

Blunkett to Beestonia; More on Wilkos, Booze for Ballots.

Loads of stuff to run through, what should be a quiet time is anything much so I’ll keep everything brief. First, a Wilkos update.

The store is definitely closing in April and won’t be reopening instantly. I’ve been assured that sites are being looked at and  everyone is committed to Wilkos future in Beeston, but I’m still amazed at the incompetence exhibited by all involved, a dereliction of duty that impacts on  Beeston more than they seem to have realised.

The 56 workers there have been told they will be split around seven local stores in the area in the hiatus: hardly an option if you’re a minimum wage part timer who only puts in the odd shift. The closest seven stores to Beeston are the two in town, Long Eaton, Ilkeston, Sherwood, Bulwell and Clifton. Most of these cannot be reached on a single bus, so getting to work will make it economically unfeasible to turn up

. So, is there a site that can be temporarily used for the time being? Two suggestions mooted are the Betel/McDonalds site that was recently vacated, and the Peacocks site (Peacocks announced there plunge into administration this week). Unfortunately, both are too small to ensure continuity, but maybe as a compromise? Of course, the other option is to simply pay the staff their full wage throughout the ‘retail pause’. This retainer may create some urgency at Wilkos head office, and put a rocket up the council. Its certainly an issue all political parties have identified as important: councillors from all parties have backed the campaign and for that I’m grateful. Particular props go to Janet Patrick http://www.janetpatrick.org.uk/, who looks after the ward Wilkos is in, and has been very helpful in getting signatures together and the word out.

I’ll be presenting the petition at the next full meeting of Broxtowe Borough Council, which isn’t, unfortunately, until late February. I’ll be back out collecting signatures on the street before that, but if you want to make your voice heard right now, go to http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/savewilkos/ and sign online. Then tweet it, Facebook it, climb a high roof and shout about it.

Thanks also to all the people who responded to my call to be willing to give a quote to the Post in Monday in regards to a story they were planning to run as an update on the campaign…seems it wasn’t needed as the piece has either been dropped or postponed.

___________________________________________________________

It’s rare that we see much of political heavyweights in Beeston outside election time. So, whatever your political hue, this is worth a look come February:

Former cabinet minister David Blunkett is to visit Chilwell for a public meeting where he will talk about Labour’s alternative to austerity and the challenge of a post-Coalition Britain. In addition he will reflect on his experiences in public life over the past 40 years. The meeting will be chaired by Nick Palmer, Broxtowe’s former MP and now Labour’s Parliamentary Spokesman for the constituency, and is open to members of the public, who will have the opportunity to put their questions to Mr Blunkett.

As well as talking about Labour’s plans, Mr Blunkett – who served as Home Secretary, Education Secretary and Work and Pensions Secretary in Tony Blair’s Government – will share his views on the performance of the Coalition and about Labour’s task in rebuilding trust and support.

Nick Palmer said: “A great many voters are already disillusioned with the Coalition Government but it’s not enough just to oppose. Voters want to know what Labour’s alternatives are, and we’ve asked David Blunkett as one of Labour’s leading national figures to talk about Labour’s strategies and respond to questions. I’m looking forward to chairing the meeting and contributing my own comments on the way forward. “Broxtowe is the 10th most marginal Tory seat in Britain – and in 2010 the Tories won partly by throwing huge amounts of money into the seat. It’s important that we can compete on a level playing field, so this meeting is also a fund-raiser to make sure that we have a fair chance to put the alternative case to voters.”

The meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Thursday 2nd February at Inham Nook Methodist Church in Pearson Avenue, Chilwell, Nottingham. Suggested donations are £5 for the waged and £2 for the unwaged.

_____________________________________________

I’m writing this post on the day that every blogger’s best friend, Wikipedia, is down, and that other source of wonderful knowledge, Beeston library, is closed. Thankfully its not become a victim of swingeing cuts (well not yet anyway) but is having a refurb and should be open again on the 13th February even better than before. ______________________________________________

The library closing means I can’t pursue one of my favourite time-squandering hobbies: trawling the Nottingham archives for odd stories. If you have an hour or eight to kill it’s a fine way to whittle the hours away. I think it must be akin to fishing, a ‘sport’ I’ve until now seen the point of. You sit in quiet stillness for ages, until something grabs your attention and breaks the semi-meditative state you”d drifted into. With anglers, it’s a trout, with archive-readers it’s a report on Nottingham having the riot act read to it again (it seems that our ancestors saw rioting as the norm during the early nineteenth century, they’d riot about anything. A toast to the Monarch suggested at the theatre? A riot ensued. Bread prices raised? A riot ensued? News that Prime Minister Spencer Percivel had been assassinated? Celebrations in the city reached such a pitch a riot ensued).

The angler will examine his catch, and depending 0n it’s quality, and either chuck it back or take it home to mount in a cabinet. So forgive me while I relate the following to you: it’s the eqivalent of me landing a whale-shark from a perch on the Erewash. In 1754, to curry favours with voters, wine was made available to the electorate in Nottingham, but only AFTER  they had voted, due to their propensity for forgetting to vote after a few gob-fulls. Better still:

 ‘in order to prevail upon that debauched borough, Newark, £1000-£1500 had to be expended… such was their thirst… (a)  number of the guests had the misfortune to take too much of the wine, and die soon afterwards’

Now, we have a real problem in 21st Century Britain getting the electorate out every few years so….. I’m just planting seeds.

_________________________________________

And finally, I’m going to plug myself by telling you the newspaper I edit and publish, The Beestonian has just reached Issue 5 and available in the usual outlets. Big thanks in particular to our sponsors Belle and Jerome and The Treasury  If you’d like to stick an advert in Issue 6, we’d be more than welcome to have you on board: get in touch by emailing mattgoold23@hotmail.com and we’ll sort something out.

________________

I’ve just glanced down at the notes I made for the little piece about the Nottingham Annals, and can’t publish this post without first mentioning the fact that around two hundred years ago, Nottingham rioted against ‘unscrupulous cheese-makers’. I’m so proud to live where I live.

An unscrupulous cheese-maker, yesterday.