John Lewis worker SACKED after disagreeing with company director in blog post

February 4, 2013 | by | 28 Comments

A former John Lewis call centre worker told yesterday how he was fired – for disagreeing with one of the company’s directors in an online spat.

Andrew Rainnie, 31, left a comment on a blog article written by Patrick Lewis, director of partnership services for the retail giant.

Rainnie voiced his opinion after Mr Lewis claimed that “shared responsibility and shared reward” was behind the company’s success.

Andrew Rainnie, from Glasgow, who was dismissed from a job with John Lewis after posting comments on one of the directors' blog posts disagreeing with him

Andrew Rainnie, from Glasgow, who was dismissed from a job with John Lewis after posting comments on one of the directors’ blog posts disagreeing with him

As an employee of a third party agency, working for johnlewis.com, Rainnie didn’t receive the same benefits as other John Lewis staff and took issue with the article.

He left the comment: “We receive minimum wage, no discount, and our Christmas bonus for being verbally abused on a daily basis was a bottle of Waitrose wine.”

He added: “I’ll probably be fired for this” – and five days later he was.

Rainnie, from Glasgow, Scotland, said: “I came home and posted the comment. I didn’t think anything of it at the time.

“A few days later my manager came up to me at work and asked me to come into a room where I was ambushed by another woman.

“She asked me if I had written the comments and I said I had. I defended what I had said but the woman said that it was against the social media clause in my contract.

“I had read this clause and took it to mean things like Twitter and Facebook which I have always been careful on.

“I didn’t expect it to apply to comments on an article on a newspaper’s website, especially considering the comment wasn’t derogatory or defamatory.

The Guardian website where the John Lewis director Patrick Lewis posted the PR piece

The Guardian website where the John Lewis director Patrick Lewis posted the PR piece for the company, which Mr Rainnie disagreed with

The comments Mr Rainnie added to the blog post

The comments Mr Rainnie added to the blog post

“I was just pointing out that I didn’t agree with what he had said as most people don’t receive that family discount.

“My main hope was that he would do something about the staff in call centres who don’t  feel included.

“I asked them if they were firing me and she said ‘yes, we are going to let you go.’ I was escorted out the building after that.”

Mr Rainnie had worked for John Lewis via Teleperformance – a third-party agency – since September last year.

In the article, posted on the Guardian website last month, Patrick Lewis wrote: “Mutualism as a word can be confusing. To me it’s about togetherness – shared responsibility and shared reward. While not a guarantee of success, it does bring some very clear advantages.

“What we have discovered at John Lewis is that co-ownership leads to increased levels of productivity, low absenteeism, low staff turnover, higher levels of commitment and higher levels of wellbeing.

“Employees within our business enjoy a higher well-being at work than the national average. Having made this observation there is, in my view, a strong case for concluding that mutualism may be a strong model for delivering some of our public services.”

John Lewis is owned by a trust and operates a ‘partnership’ whereby employees known as ‘partners’ have a say in the running of the company and receive a share of annual profits in addition to their salary.

Employees of third-party agencies contracted by John Lewis, such as Teleperformance, aren’t considered ‘partners’ and don’t receive the same wages or benefits as frontline staff.

Rainnie said: “It seemed to me like Mr Lewis was saying that ‘mutualism’ was about an all-inclusive family but call centre staff aren’t a part of that.

“A lot of workers seem to be excluded from this partnership and that is what I took issue with.

“I believe that around 65% of the profits come from the dotcom part of the business so I think it is only fair that those staff receive the same benefits.

“I read the article and thought about how we help generate nearly two-thirds of the profits yet we get spoken to the way we are and don’t get the same pay or discount as other staff.”

Rainnie had said in his comment on the article: “Mutualism is a wonderful ideal, but where it fails in the case of John Lewis is which select groups of individuals it envelops within its benefits.

“For example, (and I’ll probably be fired for this), I work in the call centre for John Lewis.com, which is the powerhouse behind John Lewis’ profits.

“Whereas John Lewis staff who stand in store, or the Waitrose Partners who stock shelves, and their immediate families, receive the perks of the Partnership discount (at 12% or 25% depending on the type of product), those working for the website, from 7am until midnight, are contracted via a third party (much in the same way as the cleaners who clean the stores).

“We receive minimum wage, no discount, and our Christmas bonus for being verbally abused on a daily basis was a bottle of Waitrose wine.

“The verbal abuse over the Christmas period was particularly bad, being sworn and screamed at on a daily basis, and solely blamed for ruining Christmas when items were out of stock or lost in transit.

“In one instance which brought me close to quitting, the son of a Waitrose partner (so, someone who had done not one days work for the company itself) screamed at me because his discount had failed to come off a certain item, a problem that existed because his parents had not set up his discount correctly.

“Like I said, Mutualism is a wonderful ideal, but not when it is mutually exclusive.”

He then posted a further comment, which read: “While I jokingly said I may be fired for my initial comment, hoping to push forward a dialogue about mutualism and employment, instead my comment was reported to my employer and I was subsequently let go on the grounds of a social media clause in my contract.  I guess the joke is on me.”

Rainnie, who previously worked as a media monitor in London, is now looking for another job.

He said: “I didn’t particularly like the job but it was money and I was supposed to have shifts until at least the end of February.

“This is the first time I have been fired. It wasn’t a shock but it was disappointing because of the reason behind it.”

A spokesperson for John Lewis said yesterday (Mon): “We can confirm that Mr Rainnie worked for Teleperformance, a third party contractor John Lewis employs to manage calls made to its website.

“John Lewis is not party to discussions about contracts Teleperformance has with its individual employees, and is not able to comment on decisions made as a result of such discussions.

“We did not recommend any course of action in relation to Mr Rainnie.

“We appreciate the importance of outsourced staff abiding by their contracts and we respect the right of our suppliers to enforce those contracts.

“At John Lewis, as an organisation with a culture which encourages honest feedback from our staff, we prefer to have an open discussion about any concerns in the first instance, with formal procedures a last resort.”

A spokesperson for Teleperformance added: “We can confirm that Mr Rainnie was employed on a temporary contract with us over the Christmas period.

“We do not comment on any employee’s individual circumstances.

“Teleperformance has a social media policy that all employees are made aware of, and we take seriously any behaviour that could undermine the reputation of us or our clients.

“As an employee of Teleperformance, the decision to terminate Mr Rainnie’s
contract was made by us and not John Lewis.”

Category: News

Comments (28)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    That’s JLP for ya, say one thing public and another in private

  2. Anonymous says:

    What a complete load of bollocks! The “social media” part of the contract is basically to say that you can’t post anything without our prior say so.

    It is a clause to stop freedom of speech. The companies mentioned should be brought to the court of human rights. end of.

  3. Ian Leonard says:

    Poor guy, shame JLP can’t take criticism. What a mean thing to do. I’ll think twice before shopping there again.

  4. Anonymous says:

    so he was sacked by teleperformance, and not john lewis? and he broke the agreement of his contract? I don’t understand how this is even news, presumably to look for a ‘quick buck’ after breaking his contract!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t their set up run by a constitution so they probably cannot share the reward with anyone not directly employed by them. If this guy is a temp worker then he would get any benefits due from the company who employ him directly and shouldn’t expect whatever proper employees of another company get.

  6. Anon says:

    I know the genuine reeason he was fired and it wasn’t for that. I thought that he was being unfairly treated until I was told the real reason he was fired.

  7. Andrew Rainnie says:

    Well, to the three Anonymouses:

    Anon #1 – As far as I am concerned I did not break my contract; the Social Media policy is part of the employee handbook, not the contract. Also, I was not paid for the interview. SWNS found out about what happened and contacted me for a 15 minute chat over the phone.

    Anon #2 – If you read my comment on the Guardian, my point was not that we should expect the same benefits as Partners, but that Patrick Lewis was arguing that his company was akin to the NHS and based on the principles of Mutualism, when in fact they are not a national service but a business, and the bulk of their profits are made not by the partners who share in the mutual gains, but by third party companies (the call centres, delivery companies, etc).

    Anon #3 – That was the reason I was given in my exit interview. If you know of a different reason please feel free to contact me or say it on here.

    Andrew

  8. Anonymous says:

    This is exactly why I left JLP (Waitrose) in 2011.

    They are expanding aggressively with tactics that would make Tesco and Sainsbury’s look mild – and yet they are still keeping the public under the impression that we ‘partners’ have a say in it.

    JLP is a ticking time bomb. I’ve never looked back.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I’m a customer who Had a waitrose van smash into my car when they delivered my shopping. The treatment I received was shocking – they used get lost tactics to try and get out of responsibility. No apology and ignored by customer service. Am now taking them to small claims court

  10. Anon says:

    I work for JLP,and don’t think our profits should be shared by non partners

    • Waitrose Cleaner. says:

      Why arent the cleaner at JLP and Waitrose not part of the partnership?
      Is it a caste system,and were untouchables!!!!

  11. Waitrose Cleaner. says:

    I worked for” Emprice” the cleaning company that cleaness Waitrose,minimum wage,no pension,basic holidays,statory sick pay.And the partness get good pay,pansion,more holiday,bonus,discounts,etc….

  12. Anonymous says:

    A few year back John Lewis implemented a “hand book”. Many people have been advised by their own legal teams that “what John Lewis says, or writes in their books, does not constitute or overwrite any legislation”.

    The John Lewis View on this is that the handbook is an extension to your contract, which they constantly update with terrible terms.

    John Lewis is an absolute abomination of a company to work for, I am fully aware of many of the laws they have broken in the past.

    I cannot comment on this personal case, as I know not a thing about it other what is listed above.

  13. Will says:

    I worked at John Lewis and the best day of my life was getting my life back when I left, totally controlling and can’t take any criticism. The term partnership is a joke and so called partners aren’t treated as equals and are expected to perform tasks that well exceed job description and pay grade. Pay is also crap its minimum wage plus the bonus which took me to £14,000 a year when store managers get between £80 to 90k a year. Andy street gets 500k per year not counting bonus and Charlie mayfield a +800k salary and a 1.2 million pound bonus figures taken from an internal John Lewis magazine. All in all a crap company to work for that requires your soul.

  14. Anonymous says:

    As much as John Lewis is a backward company to work for, would it be fair for an employee who works for another company ( Might get perks from them as well) to get all the perks of a JL Partner i.e double reward for doing one job. If you want to receive JL benefits, why don’t you quit and join JL? You chose to work for another company and accepted the role with its terms.. You cannot then try to change the rules to suit you!!

    JL is not a Partnership, it is controlled by their Head office in Victoria, by people who had never set a foot on the shopfloor to serve a customer. Andy Street is as stupid as he looks and JL was soo much better before he joined….

  15. Anonymous says:

    I worked for Teleperformance a few years back on the John Lewis contract. The managers, if you didn’t kiss their backsides, made you feel like a criminal for working there. Our contracts were modified without our knowledge. On my last week, I was working on Sunday and according to the rota, I was off the following day then back in on Tuesday. So it was a surprise when I was called by my mananger who snarled “Why aren’t you in? You’re supposed to be in! You’re giving the company a bad name etc” As it turned out, my shift was changed late on the Sunday night and I was not informed whatsoever.

    We were encouraged to lie to customers as to the availability of stock in JL stores (“Keep the sale online, that’s what you’re getting paid for, if we don’t have it, no-one has it, it’s that simple”). Bribing customers with “goodwill gestures”.

    Eventually, when verbally abused by a customer who took me to account when a White Van Man 400 miles away (Working for Yodel, of course) – and let me stress this, this was an everyday occurance – I had enough and walked out.

    Good on you Mr Rainnie! The more this shambles of a call centre are taken apart the better.

    (Did I mention how my manager flirted with every female temp and spent more time making rollups on his desk than actually doing anything?)

  16. Anonymous says:

    I work for john lewis and I can tell you as a selling assistant we we partners and managers work very hard on the shopfloor providing high quality service and care towards our customers..You may think 65% of sale comes through dot.com(online services)but we the partners order for customers ourselves helping customers for their orders through yhe online system do we make it happen and we deserve and work hard for our contribution both physically and mentally not just sitting on our chairs..we don’t even have chairs to sit we are constantly on yhe move to go yhe the extra mile to help our customers to be happy and satisfied.

  17. Anonymous says:

    As someone in a position to know, I can say that working at JL is like being shot full of morphine on the production line at a beige paint factory.

    Class snobbery sustains the customer base and imperious complacency informs the power structure. I can also say that the vaunted bonus is in many ways a discretionary part of what your full wage should be. It’s just cynically kept in reserve in lieu of company performance.

  18. Anonymous says:

    John Lewis are not all they are cracked up to be. They pay below the so called Living Wage but top it up with a bonus. The total is only what the pay should be as someone above has said. Don’t believe all this rubbish about being partners in the company, in reality the employees have the same position as any other company. They are just using these terms like “partners” and “bonus” to make out they are a better company. It looks like their latest thing is to attack the pensions, they will be one of the worst to work for soon.

  19. Selling oartner says:

    Just read Animal Farm………..that is John Lewis. ‘All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others’.

    Customer service is now not priority either, just keep flogging those partnership credit cards, and after that, they will find something else as an excuse not to give us a pay rise. I have had no pay rise for over 3 years, and still not getting one this year.

    Shame on you, John Lewis. John Spedan Lewis will be turning in his grave. Customers, please keeping complaining about lack of staff, and lack of expertise………another thing, we are now to be Jacks of all trades, and masters of none. We will soon be no better than anyone else on the high Street!

  20. Anonymous says:

    If you phone JohnLewis.com (teleperformance) and ask the person on the phone how they liked their bonus they MUST NOT say they do not get the bonus.

    An obligation to lie to their customers…

  21. Anonymous says:

    John lewis is opening In the USA in 2025 , yeaaah boi as well as this waitrose will expand here too changing their name too chickenrose

  22. Justin Lakey says:

    I was fired for a similar offence at John Lewis. They ignored the rules they set in their constitution and only believed the stories of the people above me in the business.

    Looking after their own. Its not democratic, its communism.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Ok first I must apologise as I am asking a question rather than adding to one.
    It seems like there are a few people on here who work for Jl,my question is this,is there a liabily to Jl if I was involved in a car accident just out side of work?

  24. Anonymous says:

    I worked for them years ago. Now I go very occasionally to shop there as a customer. I have to say I do find the staff all very friendly and helpful. It is in their interest to do so but they seem genuine. However, if you don’t tow the company line as a “partner”, and it can be even down to the buttons that you wear on your suit, and the colour of shoes you wear, hell you know about it! The “goodwill” that we had years ago was taking the right royal p. out of by some very snobbish, ungrateful and ghastly customers. They worked the system. They also used to come in about a minute before you were due to clock off and they would complain about NOTHING just to get a discount. I found any kind of different thinking was frowned upon, and if your face doesn’t fit, you will know it. I would never ever work there again. It took two years of my life and many Saturdays I will never get back. And everyone used to be obsessed with the bonus, which is the “hook” sorry to say. As for paying badly, I would also accord with that.

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