Like Debenhams, the Arcadia retail empire is headed for liquidation. How did this happen? Arcadia’s head, Philip Green, was knighted back in 2006 for his services to the retail industry. He was even appointed as Tory PM David Cameron’s ‘efficiency tsar’ in 2010. And he was ‘efficient’ by the standards of Tories and business leaders. Example: He arranged the largest individual payout in the corporate history of the United Kingdom to his wife in 2005. How much? £1.2 billion. Meanwhile the majority of his employees are struggling around the edge of the living wage. Evil? Sounds like it….
But was that enough? No. In 2015, retail chain BHS was under his control when he sold it to someone with no experience of the business. Why? It ends up that he and his family had collected £580m over their association with BHS. Then magically in 2016 was a £571m hole in the pensions account. The connection was so clear that the MPs voted to allow him to be stripped of his knighthood (He’s still got it.) and they stopped short of calling him an ‘evil capitalist’. Instead they used the phrase ‘unacceptable face of capitalism’ when summarizing their investigation. He took a risk with people’s livelihood and was caught. He paid back £363m… which means he kept the over 100m in this game. And it only cost thousands of retail workers their jobs. Evil.
We know all this through investigations, but there’s lots we’ll never see. His capital protects him. He’s paid for non-disclosure agreements to shut up his former employees about abuses. There are numerous accusations of racism, groping, physical abuse and more. His empire is falling apart now but it is costing retail workers more: here it means their jobs, in shops across the Irish side of Philip Green’s Arcadia empire: Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, Topman, Burton, Evans, Wallis, and Miss Selfridge. They could all be gone by mid January if a new evil capitalist isn’t found…
Ireland’s retail workers in the stalls and shops Arcadia, just like in Debenhams, are going to need real genuine continuing support. Micheal Martin has made it clear: workers aren’t going to get it from a FF-FG-Green government here. We’ve seen how they ignore our retail workers in Debenhams. Martin is making a show of treating them badly, so the UK’s retail capitalists can see that Ireland will not interfere with their exploitation of retail workers here. It’s clear that FF FG and Green want to be seen to oppose the workers. They don’t want to set a bad precedent. Workers need a precedent set that says government will look after them.
We need to talk to retail workers and back their push to have government to sit down with pro-worker unions now. We need to build protections now. Implement the Duffy-Cahill report as Debenhams workers have demanded.
We need a new deal for retail workers- not an owner’s paradise for evil capitalists like Philip Green. We can decide that with real worker militancy and joined up thinking. Things can’t keep going like this and Philip Green and his kind are not going to save us. We need to unite and fight with our unions beside us to drive real lasting change for all workers across Ireland.