As a regular John Lewis customer, I was disappointed to read of the partnership’s practice of outsourcing cleaning to firms that pay their workers low rates and offer little job security, and few or none of the rights and benefits offered to “partners” (The John Lewis motto should be ‘never knowingly underpay’, 14 September). Like many others, I shop at John Lewis in the belief that it is among the more ethical and socially responsible of retailers. The John Lewis Partnership’s profits are owed, in part, to this consumer choice.
If JLP were to take its cleaners back into the partnership, this could help promote good employer practice in the retail sector. A cleaning job with the company would become a gateway to a decent standard of living for some of the most marginalised and underpaid workers. Guardian readers can exercise their consumer muscle by writing to Charlie Mayfield (chairman) and Andy Street (managing director) before the November board meeting to press for a change of policy.
•?John Lewis is a partnership. It’s not a co-operative, but a rather exclusive club with limited democracy, just like many other member clubs. Being a co-operative means abiding by the values enshrined by the Rochdale Pioneers in 1844 – the co-operative values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity; plus the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others. And to ensure the values work, co-operative principles of open membership, democracy, autonomy and independence, member economic participation, education, co-operation among co-operatives and concern for the community must be practised. It’s not easy to be a co-op and stay true to these values and principles. But the model works for 1 billion co-operators in over 100 countries in areas from finance to housing, schools, retail and farms, and which is now being celebrated with 2012 being the UN International Year of Co-operatives.
Secretary, Cambridge and Saffron Walden Co-operative party
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