UK shops closing plus threatened fuel strike - 2012 Summer of discontent approaches
For every small piece of good news, as far as jobs in the UK go, there seems to be worse news on the horizon. It is a case of two steps forward and four steps back.
After weeks of speculation retailers Game and Past Times have both gone into administration. Whilst both retailers have an online presence they also have a huge presence on the High Street. With so many stores around the country any closures will result in more empty, boarded up shops with their associated problems.
This will no doubt be the future for many City Centre retailers. Their futures could lie online. Whilst this will still result in many vacant properties at least businesses may be saved which should mean some work available. Past Times and Game UK have gone into administration which will mean that if no buyer is found both are liable to stop trading.
In January 2012 Past Times appointed an administrator, having already closed 46 stores, resulting in 507 redundancies. 30 people were made redundant at Past Times head office and another 37 at its warehouse. It now looks doubtful that the remaining 51 stores will continue to trade. A total of 531 people are still employed at Past Times.
Workers at Game will fare much worse. Today's announcement that the company has now officially gone into administration is bad news. 277 of Game's 609 UK stores will close immediately. By the end of this week 2,119 Game employees will have been made redundant from Game.
Game could be taken over by a UK Bank backed consortium. As Game owes UK banks £85m , with an additional £95m due to suppliers, this could be a sensible option. Game's financial difficulties are not restricted to the UK though. Around 5,500 workers in other countries could lose their jobs too.
Add to this UK sky high fuel prices and you have a recipe for disaster. Not only will high fuel prices affect public transport costs, the cost of food and much more it looks like it may also lead a Strike.
Labour were hit by a fuel tanker strike when prices rocketed during their term in office. Now it looks like the Coalition could have a taste of the same. Today March 26, 2012, petrol tanker drivers have voted in favour of a National strike. This time however the tanker drivers gripe is with their terms of employment and safety issues.
Late last week it was obvious that the Coalition feared such a course of action. Media sources reported that members of the UK armed forces were being trained to drive fuel tankers in the event of a strike. UK Government minister Francis Maude has maintained that this is simply the government acting wisely to prevent a re-run of the previous unrest.
In the year 2000 UK fuel tanker drivers went on strike and chaos quickly descended. Panic buying of what fuel there was and stock piling of food quickly left supermarket shelves empty. Public transport also ground to a halt. That strike was short lived but one in 2012 may not be.
Already people are filling up at the pumps more than they would normally.
Francis Maude made a final appeal to the drivers before their ballot. He said: "Widespread strike action affecting fuel supply at our supermarkets, garages and airports could cause disruption across the country. "The general public should not and must not suffer from this dispute and strike action is manifestly not the answer."
A spokesperson for the Unite Union told Sky News, "Contracts chop and change every three to five years, bringing with each change a fresh assault on working conditions. "They [oil companies] suck up the profits but are leaving a dangerous structural mess behind them." The union has called on employers to help set up minimum standards covering training, health and safety.
Unite represents 2,000 drivers who account for 90% of those supplying petrol to UK forecourts. The drivers who were balloted are from seven distributors - Wincanton, DHL, Hoyer, BP, J.W Suckling, Norbert Dentressangle and Turners. Two of the companies did not vote in favour of strike action."
In the past we have had to face UK Winter's of discontent but will 2012 prove to be our Summer of Discontent?
Eileen Kersey manages TEK Staff Blog