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TENS of thousands of high street workers were left facing a bleak Christmas today as Arcadia went into administration, while talks aimed at saving 207-year-old Debenhams crumbled.
Trade union federation the TUC called for urgent action from the government, warning that 25,000 high street workers’ jobs would go, leaving the retail sector in tatters.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The government must not watch from the sidelines as thousands of high street jobs are lost.
“We need urgent and targeted action to save livelihoods in badly hit industries — like retail — before it’s too late.
“Unions stand ready to work with ministers and employers on sector-by-sector recovery plans.”
Ms O’Grady said it was a “very stressful time” for retail workers and said the government “must do all it can to help those who lose their jobs get back on their feet.”
“That means investing in creating decent jobs across the country and boosting universal credit,” she added.
Arcardia chairman Sir Philip Green, who employs 13,000 workers, was meanwhile reported to be on his £100 million super-yacht “Lionheart” in Monaco — despite Arcadia workers’ pension funds suffering a reported £350m deficit.
Commons work and pensions committee chairman Stephen Timms challenged the multimillionaire to stump up the funds to fill the pensions black hole.
Shopworkers’ union Usdaw called on the government to draw up an “urgent recovery plan” along with employers and unions, saying that Debenhams workers “are being treated appallingly.”
General secretary Paddy Lillis said: “Throughout its difficulties the company and then administrators have refused to engage with Usdaw.
“Over the summer redundancies were made by conference call, with no meaningful consultation or proper notice period, as required by law.
“That must not happen again and we urge the administrators to engage with Usdaw, the trade union for Debenhams staff.”
Mr Lillis added: “Over 200,000 retail job losses and 20,000 store closures this year are absolutely devastating and lay bare the scale of the challenge the industry faces.
“Each one of those job losses is a personal tragedy for the individual worker and store closures are scarring our high streets and communities.
“Retail is crucial to our town and city centres, it employs around three million people across the UK.
“The government must take this seriously; we need a recovery plan to get the industry back on its feet.”
Labour's shadow business minister Lucy Powell said the collapse of the Debenhams talks was “devastating” news for the chain’s workers.
“The government must urgently set out how it plans to support the people affected by the collapse of these companies, including pressing Philip Green to do the right thing and plug the Arcadia pension deficit,” she said.
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