Employee-owned John Lewis Partnership has restructured its maintenance functions, transferring nearly 300 staff members to provider CBRE. The move, which was announced in January, took place on 1 July, but has left many staff “deeply unhappy”.
The decision affected around 360 maintenance employees across the organisation’s two brands, John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners. Some retired, took redundancy or resigned while others have been redeployed to work in other areas of the Partnership.
The 278 maintenance staff who moved to the new provider did so under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) (TUPE) Regulations.
But GMB, the trade union that represents the John Lewis Partnership maintenance staff, criticised the decision to outsource the maintenance service, arguing it would result in wage cuts for employees.
According to GMB, staff are “deeply unhappy” about the prospect of moving to CBRE. The trade union estimates employees could be thousands of pounds a year worse off through the loss of the benefits they currently have as employee-owners.
Nikki Dancey, GMB regional organiser in Berkshire, said in a statement that “CBRE are currently refusing to honour the defined benefit pension scheme, the store discounts, bonuses and other employee benefits that workers have received from John Lewis”.
She said staff have to either take redundancy or do the same work but for substantially lower overall pay, terms and conditions.
“Many members tell us how John Lewis used to be a great company to work for, but that now their pay, terms and conditions, health and safety, and respect for the workforce is being steadily degraded,” said Ms Dancey. “Staff no longer feel valued by John Lewis and Waitrose, and the company branding of being a ‘co-operative’ and workers being ‘partners’ are fast becoming a bad joke for many.”
She confirmed that GMB would be working with the maintenance staff across the country to ensure that they had support through the transition and to represent them as future CBRE employees. She also hopes that in the long term the Partnership will “bring those staff back in-house”.
The GMB statement added that the trade union had “reason to believe that the transport, drivers and logistics employees may be the next ‘partners’ that the Directors wish to ‘divorce’ and exclude from John Lewis and Waitrose”, a move which has been denied by the John Lewis Partnership.
A John Lewis Partnership spokeswoman commented: “In January we announced, after an 18-month review, that our maintenance function would be restructured, moving the majority of activity and service provision to a single maintenance provider – CBRE. This will create a Partnership-wide maintenance function leading to improved service levels whilst maintaining our high standards of health and safety […] We have been working hard with CBRE to ensure Partners receive beneficial transfer terms.”
The John Lewis Partnership is the UK’s largest employee owned business. It’s two brands – John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners – are owned in trust by its 83,900 staff members.