Union still has concerns over payment of outstanding wages


Usdaw has given a cautious welcome to the news that the Ethel Austin brand and 32 of its remaining 41 stores have been bought out of administration by Ricli Limited.

The new company, which is reportedly controlled by Liric owner Mike Basso, will complete a phased takeover of the 32 stores and their 196 staff by 10 August 2012.

Administrators Duff & Phelps have said that Ethel Austin’s remaining stores, head office and warehouse will continue to trade while buyers are sought, although they have informed Usdaw that the stores in Batley and Wednesbury will close and a further 15 staff made redundant.  According to the administrators, these closures have been forced on them by landlords who have demanded Ethel Austin vacate the shops immediately.

Usdaw national officer John Gorle said: “While we obviously welcome the news that nearly 200 jobs and the Ethel Austin brand appear to have been saved, the transfer to someone who has been closely involved with the business under previous recent owners is of some concern.

“For much of the past four years, Ethel Austin’s long-suffering but loyal staff haven’t even known whether they’d get paid one day to the next and we are still trying to secure payment of wages they are owed for the period of 28 June to 18 July, when the company entered administration again.

“The vast majority of stores also have no formal lease arrangements and although the administrators are hopeful that landlords will co-operate in the short term, it is possible that some landlords will refuse to allow the business to continue trading – as yesterday’s events bear out.

“We remain in close contact with the administrators and I have written to Ricli Limited to request immediate payment of all outstanding wages and to request an urgent meeting to discuss their plans for the business.”

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