Staff at bookseller Waterstones have launched a petition calling for payment of a ‘real living wage’.

The petition, on the Organise website, which was used to put pressure on former Ted Baker boss Ray Kelvin over allegations of inappropriate behaviour, has attracted more than 6,000 signatures so far.

The campaign has been backed by leading authors, but Waterstones managing director James Daunt said the objective was “laudable but flawed”.

The petitioners want Daunt to pay a starting living wage of £9 an hour – or £10.55 in London – in line with the recommendations of the Living Wage Foundation.

They claim: “Working for a rate of pay that is below the living wage results in booksellers who are stressed, preoccupied and who have little spare time and energy to devote to buying books, reading them, and keeping up with news and trends in the industry – all of which activities are undertaken outside contracted hours, and which many staff consider to be (and are encouraged to view as) integral to their role.”

Daunt said the petition was “clearly laudable, but hugely flawed and simplistic and does not begin to address the real issues”, the Financial Times reported.

He maintained that Waterstones puts an emphasis on career progression rather than starting rates of pay.

He said: “What matters is where have we got people to, in terms of careers and salaries, by the time they are in their late twenties or early thirties. If you cannot improve pay and status for women in particular, you will find that not many come back after maternity leave.”