As the economy plunges, Debenhams and Arcadia – the retail empire of tax-dodging fat cat ‘Sir’ Philip Green – have gone bust, putting 25,000 jobs at risk. But this is only the beginning. The labour movement must fight to make the bosses pay.
Philip Green’s high street conglomerate Arcadia has entered into administration. This means shops such as Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, and Miss Selfridge are all in danger of closing, putting 13,000 jobs at risk.
Arcadia’s collapse will not only affect the workers at these stores, but will also have a knock on effect for another 12,000 workers across the country in Debenhams. The department store is also set to go under, with JD Sports pulling out of a rescue deal in the wake of Arcadia (a major supplier to Debenhams) going bust.
Shutting up shop
‘Sir’ Philip is clearly no friend of his workers. Previously he risked the pensions of all BHS staff when he sold the company for £1.
Green may have lost his retail empire, but he and his wife will still be sitting comfortably on top of their £1.2 billion wealth. Meanwhile, thousands of staff are likely to be let go – with no compensation – in the New Year. It is very obvious who will suffer here, and it is not the Greens.
The tax-dodging businessman claims that COVID-19 is to blame for his failure. But the truth is that high street retailers have been struggling for years. The rise of fast fashion – with firms such as Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing selling dresses for as little as 12p on Black Friday – has priced the Arcadia Group and other traditional household names out of the market.
Once again, the crisis of capitalism is forcing workers to shoulder the burden as industries die off and high streets shut up shop. Ruthless bosses like Philip Green, meanwhile, are able to cut their losses and walk away with more money than they can ever spend.
Writing on the wall
Retail tycoon Mike Ashley offered the Arcadia Group a bailout loan of £50 million. But make no mistake – this is not an act of kindness from the Sports Direct owner. Rather, it is a hasty move made out of fear that if high streets are allowed to completely collapse, then Ashley’s fortune will evaporate too.
The likelihood is that he’s correct. As high streets across the country get boarded up, no doubt Ashley’s businesses will be next in the firing line.
Green has turned his rival’s offer, however. The collapse of his business is not something unexpected. The writing has been on the wall for some time, with shopping rapidly moving online. As Green’s Arcadia empire falls, Bezos’ Amazon empire rises.
Philip Green has taken the smart way out, for himself. He has left with his wealth still intact. It is his former workers who will suffer.
Nationalisation and expropriation
Many activists – including the Labour Party – have rightly called on Green to make sure the pension pots of his workers are safe this time. However, this is not enough. Many Arcadia workers are nowhere near pension age, but are being made unemployed now. A promise of a pension in 50 years time does not pay the bills in the here and now.
Philip Green has been made rich from the exploitation of his workers. If big business collapses, the labour movement must call for the nationalisation of these companies, to protect workers and their families. And the ill-gotten gains of tax-dodgers such as Green must be expropriated.
Fat cats like Green are only concerned about lining their own pockets. Instead, we need to put workers in control and run the economy along socialist lines, for needs not profits.