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John Lewis Boss faces vote of confidence as staff question leadership

John Lewis

John Lewis Boss faces vote of confidence amid staff anger

Dame Sharon White, Chair of UK retailer John Lewis, faces a vote of confidence from the company’s employees amid growing unrest over her leadership.

The biannual vote, which is non-binding, will take place today (Wednesday, May 10) during a meeting of the firm’s councillors.

John Lewis staff, known as partners, elect councillors who scrutinise the company’s performance and leadership.

Read More: John Lewis Partnership to halve size of London headquarters

The vote comes as John Lewis seeks to revive growth following a £517 Million ($709 Million) annual loss in 2020 and the suspension of staff bonuses.

The firm has also announced a series of store closures and £900 million of planned cost cuts, with job cuts expected.

Dame Sharon’s potential sale of a stake in the business has further upset employees.

John Lewis staff own a stake in the company and have a voice in its governance.

Read More: Ex-boss says changing John Lewis staff ownership model would be “tragedy”

The sale of that stake could impact the company’s ownership structure, leading to concerns employees may lose influence over its management.

Dame Sharon has suggested a range of measures to boost growth, including developing flats above John Lewis shops.

 However, her proposal to sell a stake in the business has met with opposition.

Read More: Struggling John Lewis looking for new investment which could mean end of staff ownership

Brand expert Mary Portas has stated that the move could damage one of the UK’s most “valued, loved, and trusted retail brands”, while former managing director Andy Street warned that it would be a “tragedy” if the sale went ahead.

Dame Sharon and other executives will answer questions about the retailer’s performance at the Wednesday meeting.

Councillors will then vote on two motions, one on the council’s confidence in the firm’s progress under Dame Sharon’s leadership over the past year, and the other on whether the council can support her to take the business forward.

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Members can answer on a scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”, raising the possibility of a rebellion.

The John Lewis Partnership can remove the chair by tabling a resolution on the company’s constitution, but this outcome is considered unlikely.

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