The multi-millionaire boss of Next has apologised to all staff after saying the living wage was “irrelevant” and promised to increase wages – using his OWN BONUS.
Conservative peer Lord Simon Wolfson was slammed last month for declaring the company’s £6.70-an-hour pay was “enough to live on” and plenty for “a lot” of its staff.
The Tory chief executive’s comments came the day before it was revealed he pocketed an estimated £4.6million – plus a reported #820,000 bonus last year.
They were also made 24 hours before Next announced its annual profits were up 12.5% to £782million.
But Wolfson, 47, now appears to have made a U-turn after sending an apology to all staff vowing to increase entry level wages for shop workers by at least 5%.
The email said he hoped the money to pay for the increase would come from improved sales but added that any shortfall would be made up with his own bonus from next year.
In the ‘staff all’ email on Tuesday, he wrote: “After our Results in March some of you may have read reports criticising NEXT for the wages we pay our store staff.
“I want you to know that I was mortified by the way in which some of my own comments on this subject were misinterpreted.
“I apologise to those of you who may have been offended by those reports. I certainly did not intend to belittle the difficulties some people have in making ends meet.”
He added: “My primary responsibility is to ensure that the company remains financially strong, and competitive.
“But I can let you know that this year we will again increase standard entry level wages by at least 5% in our annual October wage review.
“Over time we hope to fund this pay increase through any sales improvement from economic recovery we might experience and through our continuing productivity improvement program (ODC, Shift Market Place, time off available, cost saving initiatives, etc.).
“However, in the event there is a shortfall in funding, I have agreed with the Board that any bonus I might be due in the year ahead, will be used to help fill the gap.
“Spread across so many people my future bonus might not amount to a great deal per head, but I hope at least it will convince you of the Company’s sincerity and determination to improve your wages and still remain competitive.”
Speaking in March, Wolfson reportedly said: “I think retail wages are a living wage for a lot of people but not for everybody.
“What is a living wage will depend on the circumstances of the person earning it more than the amount being paid.
“What is a living wage for a student living at home is very different to a living wage to someone who is supporting family.
“I think there are a lot of people for whom £6.70 an hour is a wage they can live on but it’s not a wage everyone can raise a family on.”
Wolfson is the son of former Next chairman David Wolfson and he joined the company as a sales assistant in 1991 after studying law at Cambridge University.
He was awarded 11,263 company shares as a reward for last year’s performance, and his pay and perks package for 2013/14 was worth an estimated #4.6million.
Next employs 48,417 full and part time staff earning an average #11,000 annual salary, but it is understood the new rate will be for store staff only.
The increase will take the wage rate from the current £6.70 to £7.04.
A Next spokesman confirmed the email was genuine but said the company would be making no further comment