Marks & Spencer faces Euro backlash
BRUSSELS, Belgium -- European trade unions are calling on troubled British retailer Marks & Spencer to reconsider its decision to close all of its continental branches.
Unions representing retail workers in Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Spain agreed at a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday to organise a demonstration in London on May 17 to protest at Marks & Spencer's move.
"We expect a big turnout both from Britain and outside," Jan Furstenborg, an official of world trades union grouping Union Network International (UNI), said.
"We do not accept the decision of Marks & Spencer to close the stores.
"We don't think it's well founded and we demand that they pull back (the decision)."
The unions wanted Marks & Spencer to sit down with them to discuss its problems and possible solutions, Furstenborg said, adding that Marks & Spencer had until now refused UNI's request for a meeting.
"We are highly critical of the way in which they have treated their workers," he said, describing it as arrogant.
Marks & Spencer announced last month that it was closing all its European branches to put the group on a more profitable footing.
The move means the loss of more than 4,000 jobs -- 1,700 of them in 18 stores in France alone.
A French civil court ruled earlier this month that Marks & Spencer must suspend the plan to shut its loss-making French stores because it had failed to consult its workers.
The move came after four French trade unions filed a complaint against Marks & Spencer claiming it broke labour laws by only informing staff about the French shutdowns at about the same time it told the London Stock Exchange.
Furstenborg said union officials at Wednesday's meeting were extremely critical of the "huge bonus" that Marks & Spencer's chief executive Luc Vandevelde stands to receive "at the same time as workers are being fired."
Marks & Spencer could pay Vandevelde as much as £1.35 million ($1.94 million) despite a troubled year, the company has said.
Talks over M&S closures
Marks and Spencer
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