It has been a very gloomy start to the week.
But the one thing to make all at Retail Week chuckle was the extraordinary allegations made by M&S whistleblower Tony Goode.
Several papers reported on Monday Goode’s claims that M&S staff live in a culture of fear due to intense surveillance.
The more bizarre allegations include M&S monitoring personal mobile phone calls and tracking supposedly anonymous staff surveys, allegations that M&S strongly denies.
Other allegations made against M&S is that it monitors its employees’ e-mails, it has CCTV in its head office and its building access system means that staff can be tracked in and out of the building by their security pass. We should hope so too.
It would be impressive if M&S had the manpower in its IT department to have staff actively check staff e-mails to root out anyone not toeing the company line. However, it is much more likely that it has a system with rules set up to flag suspicious activity – which might then be investigated – as any large retailer would be advised to do.
Bearing in mind the job that Goode was reportedly doing – managing customer loyalty – it is likely that he had access to some level of sensitive information. Retailers have the right to protect their assets, including their intellectual property, and should not be bullied by unions into doing otherwise.
And, perhaps more importantly for M&S, given the run-in it has already had with the Information Commissioners Office, it has a duty to ensure the protection of both customer and staff data.
While Retail Week can see the funny side of a world where Sir Stuart Rose is a self-styled Big Brother-type figure, we rather think that M&S’s management is a little busy trying to cope with changing consumer spending to be spying on staff.