Will it be ’aye’ or ’nay’?

A column I wrote a couple of issues back in Forecourt Trader’s sister paper Convenience Store on the upcoming referendum prompted an email from forecourt operator Scott Preston.

The piece in question attempted to debate the big issue (raised by an anonymous caller who I called Big Mac) of whether Scotland will go it alone or not, but came to no real conclusion.

I was (am always) glad to hear from Scott because I was looking for an excuse to raise this subject here, as I get more calls from Scottish forecourt operators pro rata than I do from English ones. I also get more from Wales, possibly something to do with traders being more rural or remote in some parts?

Which brings me back to Scott. He trades as Tagon Stores in the village of Voe on Shetland.

You don’t get much more remote than that!

He commented at length on Big Mac’s worries over the cost of being remote from his English suppliers.

I had suggested in the piece that Scotland isn’t the only faraway bit of Great Britain that presents logistical challenges to suppliers.

Scott says: "As you rightly point out, Cornwall is a bit far from most places too! However, we’re even further. To get a simple shipment of groceries to us there is no option but to use the Northlink Ferry operated by the ever delightfully profitable Serco.

"As you can imagine the price of getting a pallet over the sea on a 12-hour ferry ride is not cheap and those couriers need to make a profit."

He then outlined the chain for me: manufacturer/distributor makes profit and sells to cash and carry using national distribution network; cash and carry sells to retailer and makes profit then charges a delivery fee to bring products to Aberdeen for the ferry incorporating their courier’s charges and profit margins; courier drops off pallet in Aberdeen and it is then placed on ferry, which Serco charges for, incorporating its profit margin; pallet reaches Shetland 12 hours later and a Shetland courier collects the pallet and brings it to Voe (eventually), which it also charges for. After this lengthy journey Scott has to input the entire cost price and has to make a margin too.

"So that rrp from Cadbury’s/Mondelez International, or whatever name they are using this week, means I would make about 3%," he observes drily.

He sums up: "So where a supplier is in Scotland or Shetland it’s not too bad many of them have ’national’ (national being, Scotland) delivery routes, but for me using a supplier in say Leicester or London costs the customer three additional margins to what Joe Bloggs might have to contend with."

Scott, like all retailers I have spoken to who have the right to vote, doesn’t know whether he will choose aye or nay. "Right now I am just interested to hear both sides. I think many people are intrigued to see what COULD happen but fear what MIGHT happen.

"As if that wasn’t enough to contend with, there is a fairly sizeable group of people trying to get independence for Scottish Islands in the same way as Jersey and Guernsey.

"I can understand their arguments but the current idea of moving something from country one (England) to country two (Scotland) and then on to country/independent state three (Shetland), fills me with horror imagine how much the couriers would charge to cross three borders! Scary stuff that’s for sure."

Employees have rights

Put yourself in his shoes for a moment. This employee has had eight different bosses in the past nine years. Hasmuckh Sodha has been employed at Murco Flyover service station in Leicester since 2001, when it was first of all a Jet (Conoco) site, then FuelForce, before being acquired by Murco although Murco does not employ him.

The site is run by self-employed contract managers and as I said in the previous paragraph, he is now on his eighth contract manager.

In December 2012, on his way to the bank with the boss’ takings, he was attacked. They didn’t get the money but he was left badly injured. If this sounds familiar, it is because I have reported it before when he was on contract manager number seven for the site.

He was off for seven months with a broken hip and when he returned there was yet another new contract manager in place, this time a woman.

He has appealed to me because he still hasn’t received any compensation nor has the separate issue of his hours been addressed.

I turned to Murco for help and a spokesman confirmed that Hasmuckh’s employer, ie the contract manager, is required to have employer’s liability insurance.

As a result Murco has asked the current contract manager to contact Hasmuckh (who is currently off sick with anxiety/depression) and advised the lady to also contact her employment advisor Peninsular.

Murco has made it clear that it cannot understand why I keep contacting the company over Hasmuckh’s problems (for example, contract manager number one never supplied pay slips which vexed the tax man).

It is simply because Murco can get things done, as the current situation shows. I don’t imagine that any contract manager would listen to me.

And I still don’t know whether Hamuckh will have to chase his previous contract manager about compensation although employee’s rights should be transferred to any new employer. Hopefully Peninsular will point this out to her.