A roll-call of well-known authors have signed a petition supporting the call for a pay increase for junior staff at Waterstones begun by bookseller April Newton who works at the chain’s flagship Piccadilly store. Phillip Pullman, Sally Rooney, David Nichols, Val McDermid, Debi Gliori and Frank Cottrell-Boyce are among more than 1,000 writers and industry figures who are supporting the call for entry-level staff to be paid the real living wage of £10.55 an hour for Greater London and £9 an hour for the rest of the UK.
In an open letter to Waterstones’ MD James Daunt, the writers say: “As authors we recognise the vital role Booksellers play in our literary culture and industry. Their skill, expertise and passion are a true asset and this deserves to be acknowledged both through public recognition and financial remuneration. We also recognise the huge amount of work and stress that goes into being the frontline to Waterstones business. We hope you will consider offering your Booksellers the financial recognition deserving of their skill, passion, expertise and hard work.
“Authors, publishers and everyone else in the industry is indebted to their support sharing and selling our books. It is in everyone’s interest that Booksellers across the country are, as stated in the petition, ‘healthy, well-read, intelligent and insightful, and who have the time, energy and commitment to keep bookshops alive and thriving.’”
In response, Daunt is sympathetic, but argues that if pay for entry level staff was increased, then in fairness there should be increases throughout other staff levels which would not be feasible. “It’s not especially difficult to raise those on the lowest level,” he said. “But we think in the interests of fairness and also because we are a business based and very much supported by our experienced booksellers, we would feel obliged and indeed firmly believe that we should raise that of all our booksellers above that level, and then that becomes extremely expensive. So it’s about having proper career progression and pay progression through the company which is most important to use, and that if you raise the bottom level becomes more than we can afford.”