Just had a visit from a very angry ex-colleague from my Waterstone's days. Head office has issued a new contract to everyone with some fairly stringent/insulting terms. No over-time and booksellers will be obliged to work bank holidays and christmas day at normal rates. Pay-cuts across the board which mean that a bookseller with 10 years at the company will now be earning the same as someone with 10 minutes experience if they don't sign up. The intention is to keep a very thin layer of experienced company people and populate the shops with a high turnover of cheap staff - to all intents and purposes they're turning it into Smiths.
Everyone has to re-apply for their jobs. Those that refuse to sign the new contract will be left in a state of limbo and reduced to the status of a part-timer with no benefits or holiday.
There is quite a revolt at Gower st, Hatchards and Piccadilly but smaller branches seem to be submitting with barely a whimper. The status of Bookseller, never that high in the first place, is being reduced to the level of a till monkey. What annoys my ex-colleague even more is that Waterstone's sell themselves on the basis that they are passionate Booksellers and that there is experience and knowledge in store, clearly not a view shared in Brentford.
Personally, I couldn't give a toss, what Matthew and I do here is a million miles away from that outfit. If they want to turn into Smiths that's their business but as a favour to a fellow bookseller who is leaving Waterstone's after 12 years to set up his own shop (hooray!) he wants to tell as many people as possible just how appallingly they are treating their staff. Hopefully this will help.