A union which represents shop workers across the UK has today voiced its concern that Elaine McPherson may try again to run retailer Life & Style after its fall into administration.
Fashion & homewares retailer Life & Style, which previously traded under the Ethel Austin brand, entered administration earlier this month, resulting in 22 store closures and 274 employees losing their jobs.
It is the third time the company has filed for insolvency, with McPherson mounting a rescue bid and taking over the firm on both previous occasions.
Rumours that she is hoping to repeat the feat for a third time have worried industry union Usdaw, prompting it to write a letter to the government’s Department of Business, Innovation and Skills as well as Life & Style’s administrators.
Usdaw is pleading for stores to remain open whilst another buyer is pursued, and says that those with the powers to decide should make sure that any future owner can “provide a long-term sustainable future for its employees”.
John Gorle, Usdaw National Officer, said: “We are extremely concerned by reports that the previous owner may be involved in taking the business out of administration for a third time.
“During the past three years, Usdaw and Life & Style’s employees have done everything possible to try and help revive the business and make it a success, yet in return the staff have been treated in a truly appalling and cavalier fashion.”
According to Usdaw, there has been several occasions in the past when staff members of Life & Style were either not paid or had their wages cut with little to no notice.
When acting on behalf of union members working for the retailer Usdaw chose to remain silent about the ongoing issues at the firm but now that McPherson appears to be showing an interest in running the store again it has decided to speak up.
Gorle added: “Our members tell me Ethel Austin used to be a fantastic company to work for and thats why they have remained loyal and continued to back the business despite the shocking way they have been treated in the past three years.
“They are positive the company still has a future but are horrified at the thought of Ms McPherson returning to run it again and they can’t believe what’s gone on is all legal and above board.
“As one put it - ‘in any other walk of life she’d have been fired long ago’.”
Earlier this month Simon Bonney, Director of RSM Tenon and Joint Administrator for Life & Style, said: “We are now in early discussions with a number of parties in relation to the disposal of all or parts of the business as a going concern.”