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Usdaw gives cautious welcome to latest Ethel Austin takeover

Date: 31 July 2012 The shopworkers' Union 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 this morning that the stores in Batley and Wednesbury will close today 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.

John Gorle, Usdaw National Officer 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 this morning'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."

Notes for Editors:

  1. The following Ethel Austin stores transferred to Ricli Limited on 27 July; Belle Vale, Blackheath, Buxton, Crosby, Ellesmere Port, Kirkby, Penrith, Perry Barr, Stockton, Wallsend and Wythenshawe. The following stores will transfer on 3 August; Aintree, Airdrie, Dudley, Morecambe, Moreton, Norris Green, Pontypridd, Redcar, Sheffield and Westhoughton. The following stores will transfer on 10 August; Blyth, Byker, Driffield, Edgeley, Keighley, Leigh, New Ferry, South Shields, Stourbridge and Wombwell. The following stores and their 24 staff will not transfer to Ricli Limited; Bloxwich, Lancaster, Malton, Middleton, Northfield, Oswestry and Whitehaven.
  2. Usdaw (the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fourth biggest and fastest growing trade union with over 420,000 members. Membership has increased by more than 17% in the last five years and by nearly a third in the last decade. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.

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