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Thursday, 17 May, 2001, 14:08 GMT 15:08 UK
One M&S worker's story
m&s workers staging a demo in London
M&S's European workers staged a noisy protest against the closure of their stores
Workers from Marks & Spencers' stores across Europe came to London on Thursday to voice their anger against the firm's closure of all its Continental European stores.

Many of the protesters have worked for years for the company, so the loss of their jobs, without any consultation, came as a huge shock.

Leida Vinckx, who has worked for M&S in Brussels for 17 years is typical.

A deputy supervisor of the mens' and childrenswear departments, she told BBC News Online that she still had not totally come to terms with the news.

"All the workers in Belgium are furious, we knew some of the stores weren't doing well, but we thought they would close a few stores and the big ones would stay open."

"It was a shock when they said they were all shutting down completely."

"They called us in for a special meeting at 8am. I had been on holiday and I thought to myself, this does not look good. Usually staff meetings are later in the morning."

"Everyone was stunned."

'A close-knit family'

"We are a little family at the Brussels store, we socialise as well as work together. I know everyone there."

"I hope I will find another job immediately, but my problem is that I am 35 years old and that is too old to get another job quickly."

"I live alone so it will be very difficult for me."

Belgium's unemployment rate in March was 6.8%, although, at 8.5%, the number of women without work is higher than men.

Help from the company

Marks & Spencer employs around 90 people in the store where Leida works; 315 people in the whole of M&S Belgium.

Leida says that most of the people in her store have been working there since the beginning - for 26 years.

"For those people it is even harder than for me," she says.

But she remains hopeful that she will get some help from the company; a generous redundancy package and some assistance in retraining.

"We are still in the initial consultancy stage so that is up for discussion. At the moment they are giving lessons in English and Flemish [for French speakers] to help us in our job search."

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09 Apr 01 | Business
French court rules against M&S
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