of 10,000 signatures

To Kate Skipper COO and James Daunt MD, Waterstones

Thousands of booksellers are facing misery and financial insecurity because Waterstones aren't protecting us from falling under the minimum wage.

Waterstones' owners, Elliott Advisors, have just paid £93m in bonuses to a handful of London staff and look set to post some of the strongest returns on investments in a decade. On top of that we keep hearing news that the bookselling industry is growing. So further steps are needed to make sure that Waterstones staff have enough to survive these difficult times. The company should use its position to campaign for greater access to support and protection for all.

As a leading UK business Waterstones can do better and should look to set an example. Please sign the petition demanding that Waterstones top-up any staff falling beneath minimum wage.

Petition text

Once again our company finds itself in a position where it is closing UK sites and furloughing the majority of its workforce.

During the previous twelve months Waterstones has made good use of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) which allows it to reclaim up to eighty per cent of a furloughed worker's wage. However the scheme has a major flaw; it does not protect furloughed workers from falling beneath the minimum wage.

The majority of our staff are employed in one of three main pay bands, either on or very close to the minimum wage. Upon being furloughed we find ourselves plunged beneath this line and into financial uncertainty. Struggling to pay bills, borrowing money to make ends meet, turning to charity just to survive. There is no doubt that countless more find themselves likewise placed, unsure where to turn to for help.

We understand that this has been a difficult year for the high street. We recognise that whilst our company has enjoyed some success, its future remains precarious. But we also recognise that without the hard work and enthusiasm of our staff the company wouldn't have made it through this year at all. We fear that if the company does not better protect us, we will lose dedicated and experienced members of our workforce.

It is with this mind that we ask you to please reconsider your position on topping-up the wages of your furloughed staff. We are not asking that everyone is topped-up to full pay, simply that you take steps to ensure that no one falls beneath minimum wage. We would also ask that you use your position as one of the leading lights of the UK high street to plead for more support for minimum wage workers from the UK government.

"Books will be considered...for the great social benefit they give during this crisis."

The words of James Daunt, Managing Director of Waterstones. Our company is so much more than the books we sell and the stores that house them. Our staff are what set us apart and what give our company its identity. If books and bookshops are essential, then I'm sure you'd agree that booksellers are too.

Here are what staff are experiencing right now

"I've worked with Waterstones for over a decade, never earning much more than the minimum wage. I love my job. But there have been some dark times working there too. Right now is definitely one of the darkest. I am a single-income household and the reduction in wage thanks to furlough has seen my monthly income decimated. What little savings I had are gone. I find myself picking and choosing which bill I can afford to pay, and I won't make rent this month. I'm not sure what will happen next."

"I started with Waterstones as a Xmas temp in 2018. I was kept on first as a part-timer and then, after working every shift I could get my hands on, was made a permanent full-timer during Xmas 2019. In Spring 2020 I found myself furloughed and have more-or-less remained furloughed ever since, only returning to work for a few weeks during Xmas 2020. The first couple of months on furlough were okay because the company topped up our wages a bit, but since then we've found ourselves on 80 per cent and it has been really hard. I have already had to turn to my flat mate to ask them to cover some of my share of the food and other bills. I'm lucky, I couldn't have survived being furloughed as a part-timer, I'm barely surviving as it is."

"I had been with W since leaving University. It was a dream job and I gave it my all, always hoping that one day my part-time role could turn into something more. Furlough meant my partner and I were struggling to pay the mortgage. I had to hand in my notice and take on a few insecure, short-term roles elsewhere just to pay my way. I'm gutted."

"This will be my 18th year with Waterstones and I am a Senior Bookseller. Being furloughed has seen my monthly pay drop to £170 beneath minimum wage. I have a partner and two small kids to keep on that, and we're struggling. Not for the first time we have had to use a food bank. Things are getting more expensive and more uncertain."

"I've been with the company for nine years. I even relocated to a different part of the country when the opportunity to move into another role came up. I've always managed to get by, but only just. I've stuck it out because I love the people that I meet and I love the product that we sell. Being on furlough, I'm no longer managing to get by. The other day I found myself applying for a crisis loan just to pay a gas bill. I fear I'm simply delaying the inevitable."

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Waterstones: Stop Furloughed Staff Falling Below the Minimum Wage

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Waterstones: Stop Furloughed Staff Falling Below the Minimum Wage

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