The Smell of Bullshit, part 26: more employee stories

Another email arrived yesterday, responding to this post. It says

Hi there-
I’ve become very interested in your blog lately due to just having left Lush after working for them for the past 6 1/2 years.  I’m sure you’ll keep this anonymous as you always do.  I know from the description which store was being described, XXX [removed to protect anonymity of previous poster], as I was the manager there for almost 6 years.  Now I am not a huge fan of the way Lush is run, which you will find later in this email, but I do feel a little bit of a need to defend some of the points in the last post; maybe because it was my shop for so long.  It is true that the heating is broken; I was told by one heating guy that our store is too long for the 1 heater it has.  Technically it should have another one at the front of the shop but that didn’t happen in the refit.  That being said, Lush has told us if it is too cold to shut the doors.  I used to shut the doors but I can’t say if the current manager did.  We even had a sign for the window that said ‘it maybe cold outside but it’s warm in here’ and we always got emails in the cold telling us to close the door.
The bathroom and the smell are true.  It’s gross but it’s a really old building protected because it’s a landmark so I’m not sure what Lush can actually do to help with that.
It is very dodgy on that street.  I doubt Mark would ever let sweet little Clare work there but the incident in TBS finally did wake up Mark and there will be a security system installed.  Funnily enough lots of the employees were pissed at getting the new cameras.
On the mark up of the prices 1.  It is a buisness  2.  It’s in Ireland.  What the sales assistant don’t understand is the cost of trading in Ireland.  Minimum wage is €8.65 and the rent of the premises is €19,000 a month!  Between those 2 things 80% of profits for the month are blown.  There is a law that upward only rent reviews may happen and since we signed in the boom that’s going to stay.  Basically Lush Ireland is a money pit.
My issue with Lush is the treatment of the Irish employees.  They don’t look at the REPUBLIC of Ireland as being it’s own country.  Many people in the head office don’t understand that Ireland is not the UK.  I don’t think it’s just Lush people and it’s more of a UK ignorance but in a company that likes to shout about it’s ethics and fight against discrimination you’d think they’d realize they are repressing a whole country of it’s workers.  No Irish managers have been promoted; maybe we’re too far here to kiss any ass.  We’re never given prices in Euro and it’s a huge deal for them to actually get them to us.  When money is given to charities and we ask if there is an Irish charity our money can go to we’ve been told ‘but isn’t it all just the same place?’. Many of the campaigns don’t even apply to us but they’re too lazy to figure out stuff for us.
 One employee that was in the Lush players was told he needed to tone down his accent (seriously).  And the best of all, Mark called and ex-employee a fucking-Irish eejit and Jack said to her ‘wah wah wah Sunday bloody Sunday.’  Is that really ethical?  Now I know many people didn’t have a contract issued but they hadn’t even had the Irish ones written until 2013.  They don’t actually look into Irish laws; we were told by design team we wouldn’t need a tv license for our spa displays when Irish laws stipulate having a television on the premises requires a license.  When it came to maternity cover and rights the manager who left on maternity leave had to figure it all out for herself.    Mark and Mo haven’t been to Dublin in 5 years, Ro, Helen and Liz have never been there and most of the head office and the old retail support couldn’t be bothered to come over and see how the businesses are doing here.  We are literally the red headed step children of Lush.
You know what? I’m only 50% convinced that’s anything to do with the shops being in Eire. The other 50% thinks it’s just their lack of interest in employment law rearing its ugly but fragrant head again. “Employment law different there? Well, we don’t really care about it here, so why bother with it there?”
I’ll be interested to see what happens in the event of Scottish independence.
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3 thoughts on “The Smell of Bullshit, part 26: more employee stories

  1. Well what I am going to say has nothing to do with the above story but I needed to say it somewhere as I am disgusted.

    I saw this article in the Telegraph yesterday:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/10219747/Lush-campaigning-cosmetics-firm-that-rose-from-a-single-shop-in-Poole-to-a-global-empire.html

    I need to pick it apart bit by bit.

    1) “Each year it gives away £1 million to protest groups such as Frack Off, Plane Stupid and the Hunt Saboteurs Association, as well as giving its staff time off to attend demonstrations”

    Now where is the proof for either of these things? Are these personal donations or donations via the Charity Pot funds? If it’s Charity Pot then we need clarification as it was only 6 weeks or so ago that the website was proclaiming that since Charity Pot’s invention, it had given away £1.3M to charity, and Charity Pot has been around for about 7 years I think. So is this private donation by the owners, is it via products customers have bought linked product, it is via some other means? Context is very much needed.

    Giving time off to attend demos – is this paid time off? Again context for clarity. Are they as generous with paid sick leave? (oh yes, that’s right, they don’t do paid sick leave). So whilst it may be perfectly nice of them to give staff time off for ‘demonstrations’, do they give the same weight to illness, doctor’s appointments, funerals? Where is their priority – with charity or with the people who work so hard for them. Furthermore, the last time we heard of them giving time off to staff for a demonstration purpose it was to attend Thatcher’s funeral to turn their backs on her coffin. I am no fan of Thatcher but she was a champion of private enterprise and capitalism – something the Constantines and Lush as a whole seem to do pretty well with. Hypocrites.

    (evidence for one of Lush’s staff members attending is here: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/apr/17/margaret-thatcher-funeral-turning-my-back. She wasn’t the only one; the “ethics” director (their term, not mine) apparently attended too.)

    2) “Beginning from a single shop in Poole, the company, famed for selling hand-made soap by the slice, has since expanded to 830 stores in 51 countries with a turnover of £326m.”

    Yes, and it was reported that their last financial year’s pre-tax (yes PRE-TAX) profits were £26M. What was that after tax? But even then, pre-tax profits of £26M split between 830 stores…£30.5k profit per store (again, gross). Not looking so successful now, is it. What is that post-tax? And considering it is widely reported (on this blog and beyond) that some of the retail staff only just now (since last year) get pence above minimum wage, with only privileged London staff getting the ‘living wage’, is it that ethical to give money away hither and thither to fund the charitable whims of the few at the top? I am sure the hard working front line staff wouldn’t mind a bit of charity coming their way in the form of a living wage across the UK.

    3) “Mr Constantine, 60, has been a member of Friends of the Earth for decades, does not drive a car and applies his environmental beliefs rigidly to his business.”

    WOWEE! It doesn’t mention that by all accounts Mrs Constantine has a great big gas guzzling car (that everyone sees across Poole) that she drives him about in, does it? “Does not drive a car” or “is driven about”? Who knows.

    (Picture proof is at this link. Not my link, I hasten to add. No idea who owns this link! – http://s292.photobucket.com/user/Lushpeople/media/MarkMo.jpg.html)

    4) “The company does not use animal fats in its products and refuses to test on animals, using human volunteers instead.”

    Untrue. It uses Lanolin, which is a fat from an animal. Fair enough, not rendered animal fat but still fat from an animal. It also uses beeswax & eggs. Eggs are not a wholly ethical product (anyone who wants to know what happens to male chicks, have a google).

    4) “But his backing of direct action has led to accusations of hypocrisy, particularly over his support of Plane Stupid, the anti-airport expansion group, as Lush operates stores in airport terminals. His response to the criticism was: “You can’t live in a perfect society. Who isn’t hypocritical? Who out there leads a perfectly idealistic life?”

    Agreed. He is a hypocrite. He also treats his staff pretty shoddily, as can be seen on this blog and all over the internet.

    What Cuntstantine fails to understand is, if he is going to preach ethical, then he has to lead a pretty idealistic life. You may not like it, pal, but it goes hand in hand. Unless you can walk the walk after talking the talk, it means you are using ethics as marketing which is UNETHICAL.

    6) “His point was proven in 2011 when he was secretly approached by the Association of Chief Police Officers, via the RSPB, with a request for help with funding the National Wildlife Crime Unit, which was facing a cash shortfall. The police sought Mr Constantine’s help because he is an avid ornithologist, but were seemingly unaware of the irony of approaching a man who funds direct action groups that are spied upon by another police body, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit.”

    Not that secret then? Wonderful bit of publicity though. Did he fund them though? Story seems incomplete.

    5) “The company’s mission statement says that “we believe in the right to make mistakes, lose everything and start again”

    Yes. They keep making mistakes too. In my opinion with their customers, with their stunts, with the way they treat their staff. I don’t think they deserve a business. They’ve been lucky. Lucky idiots.

  2. Demo time off is paid. Sometimes you get emails from the campaigns team asking for volunteers to go on marches, they will even pay your travelling expenses and accommodation if you need it.

    However, sickness is not paid for in some parts of Lush, though it is in others. Head office staff get sick pay but shop and factory staff don’t. Lush have 3 companies. Lush Retail (shops) Lush manufacturing (factory) and Lush Limited (head office and anything creative – the bit where the Constantine sons work) Retail and Manufacturing don’t get paid for sickness but Limited do. This may be news to some shop staff. Ethical to the last, everyone treated fairly, no discrimination. Ethical, my arse!

  3. Listed buildings can still receive repairs, which it sounded like this store direly needed. If they’re hiding behind the ‘oh we can’t touch the building’ line, it is indeed bull. There are rules to be adhered to, of course, but how do other listed buildings keep going? Not by ignoring all the problems, that’s for sure.

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