The GMB union has been conducting a campaign of demonstrations outside Next stores to highlight the issue of low pay at the high-street clothing retailer.
The union is demanding a pay increase for all staff, who are currently paid at the national minimum wage of £6.19 (for workers aged 21 and over). GMB wants workers to be paid at least £7.20 an hour, the “living wage” for workers outside London.
A recent trading statement from Next showed that they expected a profit increase of between £10 and £15 million, taking profits for the year to January 2013 up to £620 million. Next makes profits of 17.5p for every £1 spent in the store, while average staff wages are less than £10,000 per year.
The GMB has recently conducted a survey into low pay in the retail sector, showing that some companies – such as Matalan, Oasis, and McColl – pay an average of less than £9,000 per worker per year.
GMB North West Regional Secretary Paul McCarthy said: “It is a scandal that Next should be paying minimum wages and that some apprentices are paid £2.60 per hour when they are making such huge profits. There is no excuse for this absolute greed.”
GMB’s campaign of demonstrations and awareness-raising surveys is positive, but it must be a complement — not an alternative — to a campaign of industrial organising within stores, warehouses and distribution centres.
Only strong, confident union organisation on shop floors will make retail bosses sufficiently scared of workers’ action to plough a greater slice of their profits into workers’ wages.