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The BBC's Rory Cellan Jones
"Politicians have joined the staff in accusing Marks of putting profit before people"
 real 56k

Discuss the planned strike
General Secretary TUC John Monks & Executive Director M&S David Norgrove
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Thursday, 17 May, 2001, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
M&S staff stage job cuts demonstration
Protesters converged on Marks & Spencers' Baker Street headquarters
Protesters converged on Marks & Spencers' Baker Street headquarters
Hundreds of workers from across Europe have protested against Marks & Spencer's plans to close all of its 39 stores in continental Europe with the loss of more than 4,000 jobs.

Originally, unions had forecast that more than 3,000 protesters would converge on the retailers' headquarters in central London, but bad weather deterred many.

A small scuffle broke out as police barred the entrance to the Baker Street headquarters.

M&S announced in March that it would be concentrating on its UK high street business, which has been struggling for several years.

But British and French unions say the retail giant broke French law by failing to carry out due consultation with workers before taking the decision - a charge upheld last month by a Paris court, which ordered the company to suspend the closure of its 18 French stores.

We do not believe the planned demonstration will be productive or helpful to our staff

Marks & Spencer
TUC general secretary John Monks said: "Our message to Marks & Spencer today is take your redundancies back.

"And we call on governments throughout Europe - including our own - to support new information and consultation rights for people at work so redundancies don't come out of the blue."

French and Belgian staff carried banners that read "People before profits" and "Save our jobs".

An M&S spokeswoman said its management was not prepared to meet union representatives on Thursday but would be happy to meet its employees.

The company said in a statement that it respected the right to protest peacefully but understood its employees would be a minority of those taking part.

"M&S understands the strength of feeling of our staff in continental Europe," it said.

'Stem losses'

"But we do not believe the planned demonstration will be productive or helpful to our staff.

"We have, for the sake of the whole business, to stem the losses in our continental European stores - nearly 100m in the past three years."

M&S added that it had "worked hard" to ensure that the communication of the proposals to its staff "was carried out professionally and as supportively as possible".

Chairman Luc Vandevelde
M&S chairman Luc Vandevelde
The company also stressed that consultation was still taking place with the appropriate forums in each country and at European level.

No decision would be taken until this was completed, the company said.

Mr Vandevelde said: "The only decision we have taken - despite reports to the contrary - is that we have to stop the huge losses in continental Europe.

"We will continue to consult about the proposals we have made and to respect the legal processes in each country.

"We very much regret the impact on our people in continental Europe".

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See also:

27 Apr 01 | Business
M&S boss waives bonus
24 Apr 01 | Business
Are big bonuses justified?
09 Apr 01 | Business
French court rules against M&S
17 May 01 | Business
Workers' right to consultation?
17 May 01 | Business
One M&S workers' story
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