Page last updated at 18:30 GMT, Saturday, 3 January 2009

Woolworths' Jersey staff protest

A Woolworths store
Woolworths is due to close its last 200 stores

Woolworths employees in Jersey have launched a petition after being told they will not receive redundancy pay.

The 120 staff have been told that UK statutory redundancy payouts do not apply on the Channel Islands.

Administrators did consider making a special payout to Jersey staff, the BBC has learned, but decided it would set a difficult precedent.

Guernsey and Jersey's branches have already closed and the UK's last 200 Woolworth shops close on Tuesday.

'Family business'

Another 200 shut on Saturday after a one-day reprieve by administrators to allow them to clear their remaining stock.

More than 2,500 people have signed the petition launched by staff at the King Street store in St Helier.

It is not known whether the 73 former staff at Woolworths in Guernsey will also go without compensation of some sort.

Worker Anne Marie Le Bloas said staff were only told five minutes after the shop closed for the final time that they would not be getting a redundancy package.

Describing the branch as an integral part of her life, she said: "This is a family business; the staff are absolutely distraught.

"I started as a Saturday girl in 1977 in the paint department, went to the tea bar and eventually became assistant manager."

It's very unfortunate the staff in the Channel Islands are not entitled to any statutory benefits
Deloitte spokesman

But BBC business correspondent Martin Shankleman said it is understood the administrators have already taken the decision not to make a special case of the Jersey employees.

Our correspondent was told the firm could have paid for the redundancy themselves but denied letting staff down.

A spokesman for Deloitte said: "When it was explained to the staff from both Jersey and Guernsey that they wouldn't be receiving any redundancy payments, they were clearly frustrated, but most of that was directed to their governments."

"The staff in the Channel Islands have been incredibly loyal, despite knowing they're not getting any redundancy."

He added: "I'm not aware of anything that would have prevented us paying the staff, provided it was sanctioned by the lenders and creditors."

"It's very unfortunate the staff in the Channel Islands are not entitled to any statutory benefits."

'Sympathy'

Jersey's Social Security Minister, Deputy Ian Gorst, said he sympathised with the workers' situation and his department was trying to help.

"Social security staff have been providing information on income support and explaining how the department's employment services can help them find alternative employment.

"I would like to thank other businesses which have made contact with staff at Woolworths highlighting employment opportunities in their organisations," he said.

Deputy Geoff Southern told BBC Radio Jersey that the island's government had to step in and help those who have lost their jobs.

He called on the States to set aside nearly 140,000 as an equivalent to redundancy pay.

Meanwhile, one Woolworths store manager from the Midlands, who did not wish to give her name, said she had been told to ensure as much stock as possible was sold and described her store as "barely recognisable as a trading shop".

She added: "I've obviously had instructions to sell fixtures and fittings, so half of those have been removed by customers as well.

"There's a price on everything in the store. We were under strict instructions to make sure we got as much sold as possible so we're down to sort of unpacked socks and stuff like that."



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