Waterstones booksellers campaign for living wage

Waterstones booksellers campaign for living wage

Waterstones staff have launched a campaign to be paid the “real living wage”, with more than 4,000 people signing a petition.

The petition at Organise was set up by bookseller April Newton, who is campaigning for the chain to pay staff the real living wage, set at £10.55 an hour for the Greater London area and £9 an hour for the rest of the UK, according to The Living Wage Foundation

The calculation for the real living wage is made according to the cost of living, based on a basket of household goods and services with a separate higher rate for London. 

Newton, a bookseller at Waterstones Piccadilly, said: “Booksellers at Waterstones work long hard hours and have incredible knowledge, you are on your feet all day working with something that requires a big intellectual effort and it reflects badly that people on the front line are so undervalued. The level of response has been incredible and it's really encouraging to see so many people agree and think it's the right thing to do.”

In a few weeks Newton and other staff hope to deliver the petition to Waterstones m.d. Daunt at the chain’s flagship London store. The Bookseller understands there are three levels of pay for Waterstones booksellers. 

Daunt told The Bookseller he was aware of the petition with regional meetings discussing the issue as he highlighted Waterstones' focus on career progression and rewarding long-serving staff with higher pay. He warned a higher starting rate would impact more experienced booksellers.

“We would all like to wave a wand and just pay it and have the same differentials for everyone above it. If you're being fair, you bump everyone up proportionately and if we do that, we would find ourselves in considerable straits and the business has come from a deep, dark and horrible place and we are not taking it back there,” said Daunt. “It's a tricky time for high street retailers, and in one sense, I'm a great believer in the real living wage and the principles that underpin it and the national living wage is a hugely popular thing that we've been able to ride ahead of. There's a constant debate about the real living wage and we are talking about it. I don't believe our responsibility as a company is just to deliver that, my responsibility is to deliver good pay and career progression.”

The minimum wage in the UK for under 25s currently stands at £7.38 per hour, with the national living wage, calculated at 55% of medium earnings, set at £7.83 for over 25s.