Waterstones CEO James Daunt, who is also the CEO of Barnes and Noble, announced that he would implement a 6.2% pay rise for all Waterstones employees, starting on April the 1st. The pay rise will see entry-level booksellers earn £8.21, the statutory National Living Wage. However, this remains £1.09 an hour below what LWF calculates is enough to live on across the UK, and £2.54 less than its Greater London recommended minimum.
Early last year, Waterstones staff campaigned for a ‘real living wage’ (which is different to the national living wage) of £10.55 (A$20.79) an hour for the Greater London area and £9 (A$17.73) an hour for the rest of the UK. Staff delivered a petition signed by more than 9000 people to Waterstones MD James Daunt, alongside a self-published book featuring anonymous testimonies from staff about their experiences of living on a low wage. In August 2019, the Guardian reported that the five booksellers who delivered the petition resigned from Waterstones, citing low pay and pressure as reasons for their departure.
On Thursday, Daunt defended the company’s pay policy. “We haven’t done what would be relatively easy for us to do,” he said, “which is not pay quite so much to our managers, assistant managers, leads, experts and all of these other ranks we have, where most of our employees are employed. We haven’t taken away money from them and raised our entry-level minimum wage to the living wage. I wouldn’t get any of this grief, but that would be to betray the basic principle by which we’ve been running the business, which is that it’s our booksellers who are driving it forward. I am committed to putting as much pay as we can into those ranks.”
Waterstones profits surged last year as it adjusted to life under a new owner, but sales growth was slow without a breakout bestseller to boost performance. The bookshop chain made a pre-tax profit of £27.7m in the year to 27 April 2019, compared to just under £20m in the previous year. Sales increased by 1.8% to £392.m, with four new shops opening in the period but five closing down.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.