MARKS & SPENCER CHASTISED

PARIS — France’s CFTC labor union blasted Marks & Spencer management on Monday for the way the London-based firm handled announcing it would close its 18 French outlets which employ 1,650 people.
In an open letter addressed to Luc Vandeveld, M&S chairman, the union, French Confederation of Christian Workers, said “you are incapable of understanding the European market. We think it’s scandalous that you have not uttered a single word of apology to your French clients.”
As reported in WWD, M&S said last Thursday it would shutter operations in continental Europe and the U.S., which includes Brooks Brothers and Kings supermarkets, to concentrate on its struggling U.K. retail operations.
The labor union statement is the most recent outcry over M&S’s plans to close its French stores. French prime minister Lionel Jospin told reporters at a news conference over the weekend that the government’s labor minister, Elizabeth Guigou, would launch an inquiry into whether M&S violated national labor regulations by abruptly announcing it was closing its stores and dismissing staff.
“Such behavior should be punished,” Jospin said. He called the M&S case “unacceptable” because employees were informed by e-mail and not given the prior notice required under French labor law.
An M&S spokeswoman, contacted Monday by WWD, dismissed the complaints of the French government and defended the company’s handling of the announcement.
She said M&S complied with legislative requirements by informing staff representatives on its central management committee in France and personally communicating its decision to leave the market to all employees in its Paris head office. She said M&S sent e-mails to all of its French employees informing them of its decision.
“We made every effort to communicate with our employees,” she said.

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