GMB Union, which represents a third of Wilko staff, says that job cuts will be ‘suspended’ while administrators consider “multiple” bids, hours after the labour organisation wrote to Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch claiming that bidders which aimed to save jobs had “difficulties” engaging with administrators at PwC.
The GMB Union revealed last week that the majority of Wilko staff appear set to lose their jobs, some as soon as next week, after a major bidder dropped out. Some shops are still expected to be saved by smaller bidders, but it now appears that the most likely scenario involves most of Wilko’s 400 shops closing.
However, the GMB said today that other groups have come forward and said they were interested in saving a large portion of Wilko, but had trouble dealing with PwC.
“Since this announcement, we have been contacted by a number of potential bidders for the business,” GMB National Secretary Andy Predergast said. “Of these, several appear to have the necessary funding and the willingness to invest and safeguard our members jobs.
“Needless to say, such bids not only have the potential to ensure that our members can carry on in employment, they also provide welcome relief for the high street as well as significantly lowering the degree to which the state would need to step in to provide redundancy and notice pay via the insolvency service. Unfortunately, we are concerned that prior to our involvement, several of these bidders have reported difficulties engaging the appointed administrators.
The understanding had been that job cuts would begin this week. But the Union today said that redundancies would be “suspended” while the administrators consider bids.
“All redundancies at Wilko have been suspended while the administrator considers further bids,” Prendergast said.
“Whilst this is a positive development, Wilko is not out of the woods by any means and this is a time of incredible stress and worry for the 12,500 workers who face losing their jobs.”
A spokesperson for the union said it was not yet clear how long the suspension might last.
Prendergast also raised questions about the role of private equity business Hilco, which is a major creditor of Wilko after offering a £40 million loan when the retailer was already close to collapse. The GMB leader said Hilco had been described in media as both a creditor and an advisor to administrators, which raised questions of whether there was a conflict of interest.
A spokesperson for the administrators said: “Since our appointment as administrators of Wilko we have worked relentlessly to secure a sale of the business, and talks are continuing with a number of parties.
“As administrators we’re intent on achieving the best outcome for everyone involved while preserving as many jobs as possible and adhering to our statutory duty to act in the best interests of the creditors as a whole.
“It would be inappropriate to comment on individual bidders or interested parties at this stage in the process.”
Read the full letter below: