Monthly Archives: July 2008

Employment Tribunals Notice Posted

In the matter of complaints of unfair dismissal, and redundancy payment, notice period

Direction of the President: In the matter of complaints of unfair dismissal, and redundancy payment, notice period

By Order of His Hon. Judge Meeran, President, details of a number of pending employment tribunals have been posted on the Employment Tribunals website. The notice, in MS Word format, is dated 20 June 2008 although I (Phil Groom writing) only stumbled across it myself this week; not sure when it was actually posted.

Google have helpfully translated it into HTML format so you don’t need Word to read it, or there’s a pdf version here: take your pick.

Interestingly the document lists the respondents as

  1. St Stephen the Great Limited Co
  2. St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust
  3. ENC Management Company

which perhaps suggests that if setting up the ENC Management Company was some sort of attempt by the Brewers to duck out of their employer’s responsibilities under their earlier SSG guises, then it’s an attempt that has failed. H H Judge Meeran, it seems, is not that easily outwitted, even by clever Texan lawyers…

The notice orders specifically that:

  1. The claims in the attached schedule, and any additional claims in England & Wales identified as raising the same or similar issues, be subject to an Order for combined proceedings under Rule 10 of Schedule 1 to the Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) Regulations 2004.
  2. And it is further Ordered that these claims be transferred to the Bury St Edmunds office of the London East region, for the Regional Employment Judge to give directions for the consideration and expeditious disposal of the claims.
  3. A copy of this Direction be sent to ACAS and to all known interested parties, and be published on the Tribunals Service website at http://www.tribunals.gov.uk.

So here it is, as directed, available to all interested parties. Here’s wishing the claimants every success!

A Letter to Mark Brewer

A few days ago — on the eve of Steve Jeyne’s memorial service — Mark Brewer wrote:

Now that SSG is in liquidation, you and your most of your readers must be elated . . . except whatever will you find to write about and who will you now slander?

Several people have responded. But this response from Pax Vobiscum perhaps sums up most effectively how most of us feel:

Dear Mark Brewer

The 600+ people who filled Worcester Cathedral on Monday for the Thanksgiving Service following the funeral of Steve Jeynes were not elated. They wanted to give thanks for a wonderful life of Christian witness, for a dedicated Christian Bookseller who had brought many to faith and for a husband, father, friend who meant so much to them. They were shocked, saddened, angry, but they were not elated.

The 100+ Christian Booksellers around the country who have had their careers, their ministries thrown in the gutter over the past year are not elated. They are upset, angry, struggling to rebuild their lives.

The myriad suppliers, who have not been paid are not elated. They are downhearted, some made financially unstable, others have lost an integral outlet for their goods.

The Christian communities which relied on their SPCK Bookshop as a resource centre for their mission and spiritual growth are not elated. Some, like Worcester, feel that one of their vital organs has been ripped out and stomped upon.

What has happened to the SPCK/SSG Bookshops over the last 18 months has caused so much needless hurt, so much pain, so much impoverishment of certain areas of the Christian faith in the UK that it is impossible to feel elation over the ‘bankruptcy’ of SSG. Only relief that this whole sorry episode is drawing to a close.

Steve Jeynes: A Life Remembered

Hundreds expected to bookseller’s memorial

Worcester News, 4/7/2008: Hundreds expected to bookseller’s memorial

Hundreds of people, including many ex-SPCK booksellers, are expected to gather at Worcester Cathedral at 3.30pm today to remember and show their respect for Steve Jeynes, the former manager of SPCK’s Worcester branch who was found dead, apparently having taken his own life, just over a week ago.

As reported here previously, Joy Jeynes, Steve’s widow, has issued a call to continue to pray for God’s work in Worcester. A few of the many tributes and expressions of sympathy for Steve’s family that have poured in — and continue to pour in — are reproduced below. 

Trevor Gibb, 30/06/2008:

Steve was one of the first people I knew in Worcester when I moved here in 1989. As the manager of Icthus Christian Bookshop he was a lively, loving man with a passion for Christ and a heart for the lost. Steve did not just work in the Icthus bookshop he served in it. He saw his work as ministry and was used by God to pray for and witness to many, many people.

He took this zeal with him to the SPCK shop and saw his role there in the same way as as he saw his role at the Icthus shop, serving God by praying and witnessing. This was Steves passion. I am in no doubt that Steve is with the Lord he loved so much in his earthly journey.

Steve Supported ALL the ministries in Worcester and was also committed to supporting the local churches.

Steve will be sadly missed by those who knew him. And he would be glad to know that so many are supporting Joy and the Children in prayer and concern.

Rest in peace mate your brother and fellow worker in Christ
Trevor Gibb, Director Worcester City Mission

Brian Fowler, 01/07/2008:

I am deeply saddened by the turn of events that left Steve so distressed and unable to face the future. All who have been associated with SPCK bookshops have suffered heartbreak as the bookshops chain has been devalued and decimated especially in the very short time since SSG took over the chain. Staff of the former SPCK believed passionately in the cause for which they worked, namely spreading the word of God. Steve worked untiringly for this cause and that will be his epitaph.

Mark Smith, 02/07/2008:

Oh my dear old friend and Brother in Christ. May you rest in the arms of our loving heavenly Father and may He now wipe every tear from your eyes, place a smile on your face and a song of joyous praise on your lips as you sing with the Saints in glory.

I first met Steve just over 31years ago whilst looking for some trendy clothes to wear (he was the manager of a men’s wear shop in Worcester). He always had a smile or grin on his face and, no mater what the circumstances, always had a word of encouragement. Later, when at the Icthus Christian Bookshop he was just the same and although I only saw him infrequently, after having moved from Worcester, I would sometimes bump into him and, as always, he would listen, empathize and then his face would begin to shine and then beam as he uttered a few salient words of encouragement. He was never judgmental and like others I always felt better for having spent time in his presence.

God Bless you Steve, I look forward to the time when I bump into you again and recognize you by your smile. I know that when that happens my own smile will for once, match yours.

Joy, please accept my sincere condolences and know that you and the family will be our prayers.

Janet Fuller, 03/07/2008:

Steve was a lovely, humble, caring, helpful servant of the Lord, whose work was not just a job, but a ministry to all with whom he came into contact. He will be sorely missed by us all. May you, Joy, and your family know the Lord’s eternal arms around you at this sad time, and His strength to face the coming days.

Ewan Gear, 07/07/2008:

I have only just heard. What a shock. What a loss.

Steve’s death is a great loss to all who knew him. I have maintained a friendship with Steve through the years since he began as the Manager at Ichthus. Most weeks I called in to see him and have a chat.

He never failed to greet me whith a characteristic “Hello Ewan!”, and would not only draw my attention to a book or three, but would invariably introduce me to anyone else who happenned to be in the shop. He had a real interest in people which led to him knowing everybody’s name, where they were from, and what church they went to.

I , who knew him only in passing, will miss him a lot. My deepest sympathy and compassion go out to the family and those who were closer than I.

The Christian community of the City of Worcester will be much the poorer for his absence.

We talked often of the ongoing difficulties he was having with the St Stephen the Great “charity”, and his dilemmas regarding whether to continue working with them as their behaviour towards SPCK and the staff seemed increasingly unethical and unchristian. This was balanced against his own sense of mission to the people of Worcester.

He showed me several of the e-mails he had received, and I had been shocked at their inhumane attitudes, and had formed a very low opinion of them and their ways. I personally hold them partially responsible for bringing Steve to the position where his life ended.

I pray that some good will come out of this situation and that in remembering Steve in the future, it will allways be with a grin, rather than with any bitterness towards those who added to his burrdens in life. I take confidence in the truth that God is the Judge, and that Steve’s reception into Glory will be an honourable one.

For more tributes see: 

Update 8/7/2008
Doug Chaplin has written about the service here: 

From Bankruptcy to Liquidation?

A report in today’s Bookseller, St Stephen the Great liquidates in US, states:

Christian charity and bookseller St Stephen the Great has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the US, a form of liquidation. There will be a meeting for creditors at Houston Bankruptcy Court on 22nd July.

Exactly what this implies about the status of SSG here in the UK remains unclear. The report cites an unnamed Usdaw spokesperson:

Our legal team has been in contact with the Brewers. They are continuing to look into the legality of the bankruptcy and what we can do for our members.

The Brewers themselves, unsurprisingly, have declined to comment…

Diary Page Added

It’s too easy to miss a new link at the top of the page so I figured I’d highlight it here. Please check this page for meeting times and changes of venues, etc:

Diary

Looking Back: SPCK Exeter

SPCK ExeterSPCK Exeter:
The Way It Was

No idea how long this old SPCK website — constructed for Exeter by David Ching — will survive. The History of the Building makes particularly interesting reading.

Reading about the fire in 2001 brought home to me again the extent of the damage done by SSG: something that even an arsonist could not destroy has now been laid waste…

— Phil Groom

Time to Boycott SSG?

Has the time come to boycott the SSG bookshops?

Thus far I have resisted an outright call for a boycott, simply because I have not wanted to risk damage to the jobs and livelihoods of those who, against the odds, have somehow managed to keep on working under the Brewers’ regime.

Back in December 2006 Dave Walker summed this up well when Joe, one of his respondents, suggested a boycott:

I think we should continue to support SPCK shops for the following reasons:

  • I think the good the shops and the books sold through them do outweighs the strange and dubious objectives of the owners.
  • I want to support the staff, some of whom I know.
  • I suspect that once this chain is gone it really is gone and I can’t see anything similar replacing it. At least if we continue to support SPCK there remains the chance that it will be taken over by someone we are able to support more wholeheartedly.

That was then, however; this is now. Reports indicate that neither staff nor suppliers are being paid: so where is the money entering those few shops that are still trading going?

Have we reached the point where any money paid to buy goods from these shops can no longer be regarded as supporting either the beleaguered staff or the shops’ suppliers but must rather be seen as simply propping up a thoroughly discredited and disreputable regime? Has the point finally come when so much damage has been done by the Brewers themselves that this call must now be made?

Calls to boycott have already been issued: Mark Tiddy posted his Boycott The SSG (SPCK) a couple of months ago (his post is dated 2006 due to a bug in his blogging software), and, more recently, this comment from Maggi Dawn echoes something of my own feelings:

While in the short term in might be harsh for those who have been offered “employment” by these new companies there is one very simple response that the Christian community can make to these events – resolve not to buy anything from these new shops and encourage others to boycott. We have plenty of alternatives run by people and companies of integrity, who for all their difficulties in a tricky market at least treat their staff with justice. The Church hierarchies can also make sure that no further deals are done with SSG about buildings etc – with luck they might just get the message and return to the US before they do more damage to the reputation of Orthodox Christianity.

The time, surely, has come to say:

Boycott the SSG/ENC Bookshops!

— Phil Groom

(Updated 3/7/2008 to correct the date of Mark Tiddy’s call for a boycott: see comments below)