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Workers hit the roof
GMB members at roofing manufacturer Redland in Cale Lane, Wigan, have taken five days of strike action in defence of their shop steward who has been dismissed by the company in dubious circumstances. Last year the company tried to force him out with a severance payment and confidentiality clause. When he refused they waited until he was involved in a minor road collision with a parked vehicle and then dismissed him, even though it was an accident and he reported it straight away. Strikers told me that no-one else would have been dismissed over such an incident. The GMB, and the GMB members on the site, have stood by their rep, and the strike also got support from the bakers' union from the Hovis site down the road. They reported excellent support from Wigan Trades Council over the week of the strike.
The announcement at the beginning of July of the closure of the Netto chain, on the back of the collapse of My Local in June, marks another stage in the crisis of the big supermarket chains. Having saturated the possibilities of developing 'big-box' out-of-town supermarkets, the past few years have seen supermarkets attempting to consolidate market share in other avenues such as convenience stores and discount shops - especially given the success of Aldi and Lidl in the latter format.
My Local started life as Morrisons' late entry into the convenience store format in 2011 in an attempt to rival the likes of Tesco Express and Sainsbury Local. Now it is being wound up, Morrisons will have to cover part of the losses as it is liable for many of the stores' leases. Greybull Capital, as with all investment funds, is willing to gamble on cheap investment opportunities, while limiting its potential losses. The return of Netto, on the other hand, was a joint venture between Sainsbury's and Danish owner, Dansk Supermarked Group. In its previous incarnation, it had been sold off to Asda in 2010, but 20 new stores were opened under the joint venture. In this case Netto was actually operating in line with expected earnings, but is still being wound up, as Sainsbury's buyout of Argos and Home Retail Group takes place. Both companies are still making huge profits elsewhere and in these circumstances companies are happy to throw their workers on the scrap heap. Retail unions must fight to save these jobs.
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