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‘Clarks have mentally broken me; I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again’

The Morning Star publishes the testimony of an employee who has worked for Clarks for 34 years as part of the workforce now confronting the threat of fire-and-rehire

“I HAVE been a 100 per cent loyal employee of Clarks for 34 years, never taking a day off sick until five weeks ago when I collapsed at work. 

“I am now signed off for work-related stress because the situation has become too much for me; and I am not the only one. 

“Everyone in Westway warehouse whose job is at risk feels exactly the same — there are some colleagues that may potentially lose their homes as a result of this company’s actions. 

“Fire and rehire is a terrible thing to do. Breaking our contracts is a disgrace and they should be ashamed; cutting our pay is not going to save this business. 

“We have been told we are paying for the past mistakes of our current bosses’ predecessor — if that is the case then maybe he should take the pay cut?

“All we are guilty of is doing the best job that we could for the last 20 years. We have endured one incompetent boss after another and that is as a consequence of the Clarks family’s poor management — and where are they now? 

“I feel the family have turned their backs on us and I would very much like to remind them that going back to the ’80s, ’90s and ’00s, when this great company was making several millions, we were there getting the product out to the customer. 

“I think the family have forgotten how loyal we were, and still could be if given an unprejudiced chance. We have not been awarded a pay rise or cost of living rise in over five years when household bills have continued to climb — energy, food, council tax, national insurance … in fact everything, yet this company wants to cut our pay by 15 per cent, stating that the only time we will receive a pay rise is when minimum wage catches up — which will be next year.

“An idea was put forward by us of everyone in the company, from the CEO down, taking a 1 per cent pay cut this year — that would make more of a difference. They originally wanted to cut our pay by 25 per cent, this then changed to 15 per cent — what nice people!

“Back in July we had a video meeting with the boss of distribution for the company. I explained about my 34 years of service and he responded that he ‘does not give a damn about my loyal service and nor does Clarks.’

“When I am not working, I am a carer for my 87-year-old dad — I don’t need or deserve this, and neither do my colleagues.

“A few days before I collapsed, we were all summoned so that our boss could read out the new contract; he stated it’s a ‘sh*t deal, but it’s all we’re going to get’ — how do you think that makes us all feel? 

“This company is an absolute disgrace; Clarks say they ‘care’ about my mental health issues but frankly that’s crap! They have mentally broken me; I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again.

“I am asking that the Clarks family step in and stop the shameful actions their company is implementing, show us the same allegiance we have shown them. Or are they willing to sit back and do nothing? I sincerely hope not…

“I would like to thank Barry Gardiner MP for bringing in a Bill to make the disgraceful practice of fire and rehire illegal. I hope it gets through even though it will be too late for us. Thanks, Barry, for coming to Street and giving us your support. 

“My colleagues and I have been told to make ‘lifestyle changes’ — how do we ‘change’ the necessity to provide food for our families and pay bills?

“Lastly, none of us wanted to take strike action but we feel we have no choice; some of my colleagues will be fired within weeks if they don’t sign the deplorable contract. All we want is to be to go back to doing the best job that we can, as we have always done.”

To send message of support to the Community union at Clarks, Street please email Dan Francois, dfrancois@community-tu.org.

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