Wednesday, 23 March 2016


One of the problems that any government, SNP, Tory or Labour will have when introducing legislation on wages is that companies will simply find ways around it.

Here is a letter from an employee of B&Q, the company which was firmly on the side of the NO campaign in our referendum and which issued warnings about paused investment if we voted YES, and, when the No side won, did more than pause investment. It closed stores all over the UK, including one which was handy to Munguin's Republic in Dundee.

The writer has called himself Kevin Smith in order to hide his identity. I hope his gender, location and career history have been similarly doctored, otherwise the management of B&Q should have little difficulty in identifying him.

It's amazing what big companies like this will do in order to avoid paying people a wage, which, although it is called "a living wage", is not.

He has a campaign going here. You might want to sign, if you think B&Q is acting unfairly. If you aren't a petition signing type, you may wish to consider your DIY shopping habits.

After their behaviour in the referendum and subsequent closing of stores, I restrict my shopping there to an absolute minimum. If I can get something elsewhere, then I will. I never cut off my nose to spite my face in boycotts*, but I spend a lot less there than I used to, and I'll spend even less now.

I wonder how proud Johann Lamont is of being associated with this company!

Here is the letter/petition.

I have worked for B&Q for over 5 years, I started in the business working as a part time customer advisor and have worked my way up to a management position. I live and work in a high cost living area of London. The past month has been one of the most difficult for me personally and as a manager.

In early February 2016, after the Government announced that the minimum wage would be increased to a new ‘national living wage’, B&Q ran a consultation of its pay and rewards framework. They proposed the following changes:

  • removal of time and a half pay for working Sundays,
  • restructuring of allowances for working in high cost of living areas of the UK
  • removal of double time for working bank holidays (now proposed to be 1.5) 
  • Removal of a summer and winter bonus equating to 6% of annual salary 

The full time customer advisors are being hit the hardest. Those who have worked within the business for over a decade and know our customers and our business the best are losing thousands of pounds a year. B&Q are asking people to sign their new terms and conditions of employment or they will be dismissed.

As a manager it has been incredibly difficult conducting consultations with people that are set to lose thousands of pounds and telling them that if they don’t sign by March 24th they will lose their job.

Big businesses like B&Q are using the national living wage as an excuse to cut overall pay and rewards for the people that need it the most. I feel ashamed to work for a business that treats their employees with so little respect. I feel ashamed to work for a business that proposes to pay neighbouring stores two separate rates of pay. I hope that there are others out there that feel the same and support this petition.

I hope that with the support of others, through signing this petition, we can influence B&Q and other businesses to reverse these changes. I also hope they acknowledge that treating people in this way will have a negative impact on their business in the future.

I've written this petition under a pseudonym to protect myself at work.

* I know I said I would boycott B&M, and I have done. That's not cutting of your nose, in my opinion because it's no effort to not go there. It's not a good store and it sells largely nasty tacky stuff, or goods you can get elsewhere, just as cheaply... Home Bargains, for example .


  1. It was only a matter of time before companies used the "living wage" to steal money from employees.

    Just look at what's happening with junior doctors..shame

    1. Indeed, Morag.

      I think we have a duty to protest.

      The London government is claiming that they have done this great thing by introducing what they somewhat optimistically, a living wage.

      Clearly there are enough loopholes in it for companies to wiggle out of paying it, and in fact make people poorer.

      Then the government will complain about the amount these working "scroungers" are taking in social security, rent and council tax benefits and tac credits.

      Unfair and wrong.


  2. It's not just places like B&Q. Dundee City Council is also looking to amend terms and conditions that will result in the lowest paid staff losing overtime payments and enhancements, working days will change from 5 to 7 and from 7am to 10.00pm to avoid any additional payments. I myself will lose around 2000 pounds a year if it is forced through. Add in virtually no wage increase for 6 years and all the other rising costs my salary will have dropped by a fifth at least in 6 years while Managers and anyone Grade 9 and above will see no decrease in their salary, management as usual will be fine.


    1. Hi Anon. Well, I had no idea that was happening in Dundee.

      It's disgusting.

      What are the unions doing about it?

      I'm afraid that I can't boycott DCC, but I echo your dismay and disgust, and call upon DCC to act equally, and to think about how many of the fripperies that they don't need, they can do away with.

      Senior management imposing these kind of cuts on employees should take a cut in salary themselves.

    2. The Civil Service has been altering all terms and conditions for the worse for years cutting the amount of redundancy and severance due. HMRC give about one third less today than they gave 5 years ago.

    3. At the same time, Marcia, as making more and more people redundant.

      What an unpleasant country this UK is.

  3. The lasttime I was at B&Q it was to return an item that had failed within Guarantee. I insisted onhaving a refund.

    I have not been back since,

    1. I did that with them too. A few years ago I had bought a wall fire with flame effect. It stopped working and I was about top throw it out when a friend suggested that surely it wasn't THAT long since I'd bought it.

      Turned out it was 11 months previous, and complete with receipt, I went to the store and returned it. I would have accepted another fire the same, but they had none, so I got £100 back!!!!

  4. tris

    I did say a while ago about how companies
    were circumventing thier legal obligations
    But then the Torys are the party for Tax avoiders ...Damn good job they do as well

    This Tory tactic will in the end hit a wall as
    The increase in wages will eventually run
    Out of ways for the greedy bosses to recoup
    money from employees ....Probaly be about
    The same time the English Torys drop the ha ha living wage

    1. You are a fucking hypocrite, Niko.
      Stop moaning about the Torys, when you voted for them to rule over us.
      I hope you are happy.

    2. No Unionist in Scotland has any right to complain about anything any UK Government does ever again. They have technically voted for them all. They got the result they wanted. Deal with it.

    3. Yes you did Niko. And I agreed then and I agree now. The Tories will never clamp down on that. I saw a graphic the other day about how much people fiddling social security cost the UK, and how many people are actively trying to uncover and prosecute them. Massive amount of money and a lot of people, but the amount of money involved was TINY by comparison to the amount that is stolen in tax evasion/avoidance. And the number of people investigating was massive by comparison to the handful looking into the lost tax revenue.

      Still, that is the way the UK works. it was almost undoubtedly the same under Brown and Blair.

      And that, as the guys say, is what unionists voted for.

      Now of course we can't guarantee that that is not how an independent Scotland would be.

      But I predict that it would tend to have a government on the real left of centre. Possibly SNP, possibly a rejuvenated Labour Party. Possibly one the enmity is over, even a coalition.

      I think these parties would have more of a chance of stopping that than the Tories.

      There's nothing as cruel and heartless as the Tories let to run free.

    4. You should read this Niko.

      I was in tears at that guy's predicament. Telling his wife to go to her mum's while he got rid of himself so she could go back to work and have some money.

  5. I think organisations and corporations with questionable business ethics,and I include those businesses paying the minimum wage while posting huge profits and bonuses for the director's, should be shown the door. I doubt there are many that could not be replaced by home grown companies or even other companies from Europe who would match our aspirations and values.

    1. It's wicked what some of them do. They know their employees are suffering and claiming tax credits and housing benefits, and they do nothing because they are raking in more money.

      Story goes that in Dundee, D C Thomson paid their caseroom, stereo and pressroom people quite well. It was a prestigious job, secure too. But but by bit the wages fell adn more and more people were getting Housing Benefits. The Housing department used to send out very distinctive yellow forms for employers to fill in, showing what a person earned, by way of verification.

      One day one of the Thomsons walked into the room that the clerk responsible for wages worked in. He saw a pile of yellow forms and asked what they were. The clerk explained. Mr Thomson was horrified. The reputation of the firm was at risk. What kind of company would pay its people too little to pay their rent off.

      The next week there was a massive hike in wages.

      Maybe shaming companies is the answer.

  6. Juteman and slutten

    Your a couple of wankers and you know what....
    You LOST. Ha ha ha ha

    1. What did you win Niko? No workers republic, that's for sure; not that Labour ever intended such.

      Toryneverendum, that's what your muckers in the NO camp guaranteed, especially after they (the Tories) change the boundaries to ensure Labour have ZERO chance of winning in England, and therefore Westminster.

      It's a harsh truth, one that you will find difficult to square; as you are principled, but that's the plain fact of the matter.
      You let party loyalist blind you to, what to us was, the bloody obvious.

    2. Loyalty, not loyalist...can get a rant, without predictive text getting in the way.

    3. You can't argue with that Niko.

      I don't know for the life of me what people see in the UK.

      It reminds me of an elderly gentleman who once was something, maybe an actor or singer who was popular and powerful, but who has fallen out of favour and although he was once handsome and attracted the girls, he's old and fat and past it. No one wants him any more. But he still thinks he's Erchie! Still gets dressed up in his now rather tatty clothes and plays the big man, then goes home to a tin of sardines on toast.

      That's Britain. Once great nation that ruled half the world and went to war with the other half, reduced to this state. It still struts the world stage in its tattered finery, but it gets home to pot holed roads, 1970 trains, underfunded NHS, miserably low wages and the worst benefits in the Western World (currently under investigation by the UN and Council of Europe).

      Maybe you can tell me what you see , that brings a tear to Cameron's eye when he talks of "this sceptred isle; this England".

    4. Jim Predictive text, a blessing and a curse at the same time.

    5. We did but remember, we only need to win once.

  7. That's it for me and BnQ then, I can find somewhere else.

    I still won't buy a Timex watch - even after all these years.

    1. Depends what you're looking for, Gerry. I guess the supermarkets or Homebase?

    2. Tools usually Tris. So it's Halford for me, or online.

      Check out Wings for The Wee Black Book.

    3. If you can it would be best to buy from a * local * hardware store. If you buy on-line, try to find a Scottish based firm.

      Remember Westminster can fudge the allocation of VAT (in GERS) if you buy from a chain that has an HQ in London.

      That applies to everything you buy.

    4. I'm a big believer in buying locally, local produce, where I can.

      But unless you are pretty well heeled you have to submit to foreign-owned supermarkets, and chain stores.

      The corner shop sells a specific loaf at £1:40; Morrisons sell it at £1. I'd love to buy from the wee man on the corner, but his prices are sky high. A bag of peanuts for the birds £2:40 in the corner shop; £1 in Home Bargains.

      There was a wee hardware store opened up for a while, but his prices for virtually everything were outrageous. I did buy stuff from him from the garden, or for decorating, but it cost me at least 50% more than if I'd bought at B&Q.

      If and when you can afford to buy locally, then I say, do so... but not everyone can, or at least not all the time. But one day, if we don't they will disappear.

      I was just thinking, in this respect about how difficult it must be for older people whop don't have access to transport (or don't use the internet and can't click and have delivered) when they have to do their entire shopping from a corner shop.

    5. Yep Gerry.

      The wee Black Book, with all the facts you'll ever need to say, we told you so...

      Looking forward to a good read later, and I'm sure it will be a source of reference for this and many other blogs.

      Thank you Stuart.

  8. This is the trend and it is not a recent trend, want to know what happened in BT (Open Reach) a good few years ago. They moved the boundaries, threatened their staff and put them all on 7 day working patterns, even those it should not have affected. So they could call people out at a whim. What did the Union do, went along with it.
    I am glad to be one of the non working useless but still tax paying pensioners who tries very hard not to use either B&Q or as we know B&M, the Bum shop. Unfortunately it is becoming harder and harder to only use ethical stores I think if you look closely at any business in this benighted country you will be hard placed to find one.
    Listening to TV this morning and hearing that NEXT expect to have a difficult time, may I share a secret with them, you are too expensive for many and how do you think you can stay in business whilst your potential customers have had little or no wage rise in the past seven or eight years, indeed many have had wage cuts. It is laughable when I compare Primark, who have staff on zero hours contracts sell t-shirts for a fiver which is within the price range for people struggling, and Next want fifteen and made in the same sweat shop I dare say. Here in Dunfermline they are next door to each other.
    I suggest to all business if you want it too flourish try paying people and stop buying another Aston Martin for the chairman of the board, do that and you never know you just might survive other wise, well we all saw, those of us old enough, what happened when business which failed to make a profit in the eighties.
    As for B&Q, Homebase has been sold to an Australian Company, one who holds barbeque on Sundays for it's customer, let us hope it doesn't get contaminated by ahem "British" business practice. Helena
    Ps Niko got what he wanted, learn to live with it.

    1. It's very true Helena, that it gets more and more difficult to choose a company.

      I left BT (I had no idea about their practices) because they were useless and infinitely more expensive than the competition for a terrible service.

      Bad connectivity; limits on downloads; refusal to use the email of your choice when informing you; rude staff (except when you called India, where they were polite); endless waits on help lines, with irritating music and posh voices telling you that "your call is important to us", "we are experiencing very high traffic" and worst of all, in my case, when I left them an offer to match the price and deal that Virgin gave me.

      Of course, I don;t have a huge amount of time for anything to do with Virgin, but they are cheaper, there is no download limit, and they don't keep going offline. So even if their trains don't run on time and they are buying up the English health service, for the moment, I'm with them. And I'll NEVER be with BT again.

      Completely agree with you about NEXT.

      Kids don't want clothes that last forever. They want tops to wear a dozen times or so and then bin. (Please give them to charity shops or refugee centres).

      So Primark t-shirts are pretty much ok at £2.50 or so.

      It must be years since I was in NEXT but I remember recoiling in horror at some of the prices.

      I doubt, though, that Homebase will be holding that many barbies in Scotland ...

  9. doing the same in Wilko...paying the living wage to these companies means lowering all other payments so that total wage bill doesn't change. Some employees win, others lose. The whole point of a "living wage" is defeated.

    1. True... and it wasn't a living wage anyway.

      It it was, they could get rid of tax credits and reserve housing benefits for the unemployed.

  10. Tris,

    I was interested in the comment from Anon regard Dundee Council staff. By sheer coincidence I last week visited an elderly neighbour who lives in a local council 'care' homes and was shocked, in talking to staff, about their working conditions.

    Apparently they have around half untrained relief workers with little or no qualifications who can be called in at a moment's notice putting extra strain on permanent staff. |The permanent staff seem to be on various contracts of nine hours, twelve hours and so on. Given the working involved staff constraints mean that it is not always possible to get meal breaks but they are still docked for their meal-breaks. Even the night-shift staff who are never in a position to take meal-break away, from the work environment as they are legally entitled to, have their meal-break time taken off them. They also for some obscure reason have various shift starting and ending times and shifts are changed at short notice without warning.

    Being mentally alert he relates that other residents who are less so and more dependent, can be confused and bewildered by ever-changing members of staff with ever-changing routines and that if there is one thing that upsets the elderly and infirm it is changes in personnel and routines.

    I have spoken to my MSP and MP about the situation but the one of the problems, apart from the statutory legal aspect, is that the council is run by a majority of 'independent' councillors but not in the way we regard as independent - being more right-wing than left. As far as I could tell there is no union representation and workers seem to have no knowledge of their employment rights.

    Sorry for the long rant but I am annoyed and depressed by this situation in an area where the elderly and infirm are supposed to be cherished and treated accordingly.

    Incidentally, tell Munguin I'll resurrect my blog but not necessarily in Gaelic!

    1. I think that decent folk all have one thing in common and that is that we can't abide to see old people, sick people, children or animals being treated badly. Not by individuals; not by the system.

      I agree that older people need continuity. They need the same friendly faces waking them and seeing to their needs. Working with older folk needs trained staff, people with a bit of a vocation.

      There's a guy I follow on Twitter. Some of you may too. His name in "Taylor". He's just gone back to work after taking paternity leave. He tweeted the other day a photograph of a bruise on his arm. He got it at work. I asked him about it. He works, he told me, with young adults with problems, and its a regular occurrence that he will be physically hurt by them. I indicated that I admired what he did and that I hoped he was well paid. He replied that he gets just above minimum wage.

      I think we have it all wrong. Folk sit about in Westminster making animal noises and have £70,000 plus a year to live on. Folk work helping ill or old or children and get about the same as these people get as meal allowances.

      I wonder if it is ever possible to re-evaluate what is important to us.

      I'm reminded that my mother (a personnel officer) once noted that when the managing director went off for two weeks holiday, no one arranged cover for him. When they guy/woman who cleaned the toilets was on holiday it was essential to have cover from the first hour!

      I know that your Independent doesn't really mean independent in many places. They are fundamentally Tories who dare not call themselves Tories.

      I hope you get something done, John. I know you'll try.

      Munguin, on a Skype call from Monte Carlo, says never mind all that. Write an article for Munguin's republic.

      Read this quickly, without pausing:

      Normal terms and conditions apply it is possible that remuneration cheques may be lost in the post but don't worry they are so small that it won't make any difference ask pandapaws.

    2. brownlie

      Wot in a snp ruled Scotland can't be
      Still as some nats say they got what
      They voted for er you read Iain mcwhirter latest column the snp
      are acting just like new labour did
      The rich and powerful have more influence on snp policy than ordinary folks

      Well who would of thought that ??
      Spose our Iain is back to nat enemy

    3. Nope. Never was as far as I'm concerned.

      He's a really hones writer, who says it the way he sees it. Soemtimes that llooks good for teh SNP adn independence, and sometimes it doesn't.

      Only a moron would think that either independence is a magic cure all, or that the SNP is a perfect organisation.

      What differentiates Iain from so many of the British or Scottish press is that he doesn't just write what his employers tell him to. The Herald seeming do not say to him: Write anything you like Iain, as long as it shows an independent Scotland in a bad light. no matter how idiotic and flimsy your arguments, conclude that the SNP is BAAAAD about everything.

      Seriously Niko, do you think everything about the SNP is bad?

      I certainly don't think everything about Labour is bad. This blog has praised Jeremy Corbyn on numerous occasions. Apart from his policy on Scotland, we agree with a huge amount of what he says, and we've said so.

      We all know that you and I agree that much of what New Labour stood for was a pile of Tory crap.

      Can you tell me that you agree with NOTHING the SNP does?

    4. That's not how policy making in the SNP works, policy is put forward by individuals at branch level, then on to constituency association level, then national level at conference.
      At each stage there is an open and free vote, no rich benefactors to appease; at any stage.

  11. niko,

    I don't need Iain McWhirter, much as I like most of his articles, or Cochrane or Euam McColm to do my thinking for me but leave them all to the gullible who believe in such things as dodgy dossiers.