A group of Marks & Spence staff members from across the English Channel have descended upon the retailer’s London headquarters to protest against the closure of M&S’ French stores.
The planned closures, which was announced last year as part of M&S’ turnaround plan, are earmarked for all seven of M&S’ wholly-owned French stores and will affect more than 500 staff.
Protestors representing M&S stores across France descended on the department store chain’s Paddington headquarters, chanting “M&S, shame on you”.
The group also said the retailer was hiding the “true reason” behind shutting its non-franchised French operation.
“By October, we’re going to be redundant but the reasons behind it are not very clear,” said Christian Hensby, the section manager of M&S in Villeneuve-la Garenne near Paris.
“They’re saying it’s because of financial reasons that they are closing seven stores, which will leave 516 employees without a job. We want head office to speak to us and give us proof that the accounts are dry.
“Everything from the get-go has been marred with a not very honest approach.”
La CGT Marks & Spencer, the union representing the workers, had posters at the protest that accused M&S for using Brexit as the reason for the French store closures.
However, a Marks & Spencer spokeswoman said: “We made the announcement in November that our international business has been loss-making.
“It has nothing to do with Brexit – it is part of our international review which started before the vote.”
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She added that the retailer “continued to make progress on the consultation” process with the French workers, and that they “remain fully committed to having a constructive dialogue”.
“We on the proposals and we will continue to inform and consult the Works Council and inform our employees,” she said.
In November 2016, after posting a 40% drop in international operating profits in its full-year report, M&S said it would shut 53 international stores along with 30 “full line” stores in the UK selling clothing, home and food.
The retailer will maintain franchises throughout Europe in countries including Greece, Ireland and the Czech Republic, but wholly-owned stores such as those in France as well as in China, Belgium and The Netherlands will face closure.
The retailer will also convert 45 UK stores into Simply Food outlets, as part of plans to expand their food stores as part of a five-year plan.