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Iceland urged to "do the right thing" on staff pay during upcoming Formby store refurbishm

Formby MP Bill Esterson has written to the chief executive of Iceland foods after hearing reports that staff at the town's store would not be paid during the upcoming three-week refurbishment. The MP for Sefton Central, who is also a shadow business minister, said he had sought advice from the House of Commons Library after hearing that staff at the Chapel Lane store had been told to find workin other branches or use their holiday entitlement during the closure, despite being on permanent contracts with a guaranteed minimum number of hours of 7.5hrs per week. Formby Labour councillor Nina Killen tweeted about the issue on Friday (June 15) and was later that day contacted by Iceland Director of Corporate Affairs Keith Hann, who said all staff would be paid for their contracted hours and would not be forced to work elsewhere or take paid leave. Mr Hann also wrote to the MP to state the same. However, Mr Esterson said that if the contracted hours were just 7.5hrs per week, which is standard in many retail businesses, this wouldn't be enough to cover living costs. He said it was indicative of the insecure nature of retail work in the UK that hours and pay would vary from week to week, and he called on big businesses to give staff more generous contracts that gave them more security and allowed them to budget. Mr Esterson said: "Only guaranteeing 7.5 hours is simply wrong as many staff rely on working for far longer. What is happening at Iceland shows that zero hours and minimum hours are a blight on our society. I welcome the investment in the Formby store and the company itself says it hopes the refurbishment will lead to more hours for staff. Iceland says it prides itself on how it treats staff. So now they need to invest in their staff by increasing the guaranteed number of hours and giving new contracts. I want Iceland to offer great service to people in Formby. To offer that service, Iceland need to look after their staff, so the staff can look after the customers." Cllr Killen said: "I had heard direct from staff that they were being told to find work at another store, use holiday entitlement or face three weeks without pay during the upcoming closure of the store. This didn't sound right or fair to me. "I informed our MP, Bill Esterson, as I felt that must have been a breach of employment law if the staff are on a minimum number of contracted hours each week. Surely the company had to pay the minimum hours at least? "Bill Esterson contacted the House of Commons library and we found that it isn't necessarily a breach of contract, depending on how the contracts are written. "However, after tweeting about the issue, Iceland contacted me to say that, although the staff would be encouraged to work in other stores, undergo training or take part in teambuilding exercises, any staff member who was unable to do that would be paid their minimum hours." The store is due to close on Thursday June 28 and reopen on July 19. Mr Esterson said: "Not being paid during a store refurbishment sounds unfair at best and a breach of employment rights at worst. I wrote to the chief executive to ask if this is what the company is planning to do. After Cllr Nina Killen tweeted about the issue she heard back directly from the company. The company also contacted me. "Iceland like to market themselves as a good employer so I would hope they would pay employees during store refurbishments as it would be very difficult to find an alternative income for three weeks. Not many of us could afford to go without pay for three weeks especially when that pay is already minimum wage or just above. And remember the minimum hours in the contract are often far less than the hours worked, so even as a minimum it is not exactly generous." Cllr Killen added: "If you have caring responsibilities or have to use public transport it can be difficult to travel to a different site. Also as I understand it the staff were told they had to organise these other placements themselves, no doubt taking hours off staff at those other stores if they did that."

PIC shows (l-r) Cllr Nina Killen, MP Bill Esterson, Formby Labour Action Team and Harington ward candidate Carol Richards, Cllr Catie Page

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