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Annie Hayes

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Marks & Spencer accused of bullying staff

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Retailer, Marks & Spencer is planning a shift in working patterns for its 55,000 strong store-staff in order to combat customer complaints about poor service; the Transport & General Workers’ Union, however, claim that the changes are unacceptable and have accused the retailer of adopting ‘bullying’ tactics.

The union said it had been contacted by a number of staff who claimed they were being asked to extend their working day by as much as one or two hours a shift in an attempt to bolster staffing levels during evenings and weekends.

Talking to the Times newspaper, a spokesperson for the union said: “We have had representations from members at M&S about how they felt intimidated and we stand ready to represent those members who want to take the case up.”

The clothing and food retailer say the claims are unfounded.

A spokesperson at M&S told HRZone: “We are pretty bemused by the situation and completely refute the claims by the unions. We are asking our staff to adapt working hours, so that we can realign shifts in order to cope with busy periods in the stores. There is a total mismatch at the moment.

“Currently you might have the smallest possible team available on the busiest day of the week. If we are to serve customers properly then we need to look at this. What we’re doing is not radically new. We are talking to everyone on a one to one basis and asking them to reallocate their hours. Some staff may have to work a tiny amount of additional hours, it could be as little as half an hour though. It’s hard to establish a consistent model and what the overall change will be because we have different patterns in different stores. Certainly it’s a very gentle process and no one is being forced to do anything.”

M&S workers are just recovering from the disappointment of narrowly missing out on a £115 million windfall. Had BHS and Arcadia owner Philip Green been successful in their bid for the business, M&S staff would have been sharing in the bonus paid to them from their share options.

The double-whammy of changes to working hours and a missed cash bonanza may put a dent in staff morale.

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Annie Hayes

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Read more from Annie Hayes
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