Dear Jeremy – your work issues solved

Problems at work? Need advice? Our agony uncle – and readers – have the answer

Can I tell interviewers my redundancy is a six-month sabbatical?

I was made redundant at the end of December, the second time I’ve been redundant in five years. Previously, it took me a few months to find a new job, which I looked for incessantly. I was so desperate that I took one where I really didn’t fit in and stuck with it until I was laid off after three years. I’m an architect (in my mid 40s) and I believe the practice that I chose was detrimental to my career development, but with the downturn in the construction industry I was just relieved to be back in work.

This time, I’d like to use the time I’m off work more constructively by upgrading my CAD and design skills, and getting to grips with changes in the industry within areas where I want my career to develop. This will take some time, but I’m already happier than I was at my previous employer.

I’ve enough cash to keep me going for six months – a realistic period to find work and, coincidentally, the length of a good sabbatical. So should I tell a future employer, during an interview, that I’m currently on sabbatical? I feel this empowers me more psychologically as it implies I’ve made the decision to make changes in my career, as opposed to being a victim of redundancy and its negative connotations.

Jeremy says

It’s rarely a good idea to be economical with the truth during interviews. You probably feel uncomfortable, your discomfort probably shows; and particularly in the relatively small world of architecture, the chances of your evasion becoming known are dangerously high. What’s more, in your case, I don’t think it would even gain you a single advantage point.

The truth makes a convincing story. You were in a job that you knew wasn’t right for you. You stuck it for three years – and probably should have chucked it earlier. When you were made redundant, you were, at first, pretty disheartened, but then made an important decision. You weren’t going to start job hunting immediately – you were going to invest your time and your savings upgrading your CAD and design skills, and getting to grips with changes in the industry in areas where you wanted your career to develop. By being made redundant you had, in fact, been liberated. You had often wondered about a sabbatical; now you had been prompted to do exactly that.

Most potential employers would find that both convincing – because it’s human and true – and quite impressive. To judge from my postbox, it’s a surprisingly common second-stage reaction to involuntary redundancy.

Adopting that approach should empower you just as much psychologically as lying about the sabbatical – and with none of the disadvantages.

Readers say

• Redundancy is nothing to be ashamed of these days – just a sign of the times. You should state your redundancy but also really try and push the positive outcome of it – it’s given you time to retrain and focus on what you really want to do with your working life. atothej

• I would say that, having been made redundant, I decided to see this “free period” as a sort of welcome sabbatical – a time for recharging my batteries, reflection and study – so that I can bounce back into a new position as an experienced but fresh contributor. illico

Torn between two jobs: high pay versus long-term prospects

For just over a year I have been working in a small marketing company, with an admin role that I hate. While looking around for new opportunities, I used two recruitment agencies. As a result, I have been offered a role in media auditing at an international media agency, but another large agency wants me to have a telephone interview for a role in search engine optimisation (SEO).

I am not sure about what to do in the long term. The media auditing seems really exciting and challenging, as well as having a high starting salary. But it does have elements I wouldn’t enjoy, such as long hours, travelling and liaising with clients directly. Also, there appears to be fewer opportunities in media auditing, making it harder to progress.

I am attracted to the SEO role as I have worked in this field before. Not only did I really enjoy it, I also gained the skills needed to be successful in this field. Also, there are more opportunities in SEO, as it is not just large agencies that recruit SEO specialists. Small agencies and clients also recruit in this area. I am unsure as to whether I should try and get back into SEO or take the role of a media auditor.

Jeremy says

You’ve just spent a year doing a job you’ve hated. Now you’re getting out, and quite right, too. But do the same thing again and your CV will begin to look a little dodgy.

You have a choice: between a definite offer to do a job that seems challenging and exciting and is highly paid but with which you’re neither familiar nor immediately comfortable; and a job you may not get but is one you’ve already found enjoyable and in which you’ve already found success.

My warning bells ring when you say you would not enjoy liaising directly with clients in the media auditing role. The hours and the travel you could learn to live with; but client liaison is likely to be crucial, so if you’re not temperamentally suited for it, this could cloud your working day. Your clients would undoubtedly sense your unease; your career assessments would be, in part, based on client evaluations; and I can see your employers beginning to raise doubts about your suitability.

All this may be painting an over-alarmist picture; but even if you weren’t already regretting your last job, I think I’d still steer you away from media auditing. You need a role with which you’re already familiar and can approach with well-founded confidence.

I know the SEO job is not yours – and it may not be. But my advice is that you should go for it with all the determination and enthusiasm of which you’re capable. And if you fail to land it, think twice before you see the media audit job (if it’s still open) as the obvious fallback option.

Readers say

• If excitement, challenge and a high salary are what floats your boat, then the media auditing role would be a good move. The SEO job is the one that seems to have most going for it though. It’s also one of the few job roles left that have long[ish] prospects – and this needs to be considered if you are thinking of settling down, buying a house and starting a family in the fullness of time. fairshares

• Do the job you enjoy and you’ll find a way to balance your budget against the lower salary. There’s no point earning megabucks if you’re miserable as you’ll no doubt know with your current job. fwoggie

For Jeremy’s and readers’ advice on a work issue, send a brief email to dear.jeremy@guardian.co.uk. Please note that he is unable to answer questions of a legal nature or reply personally.

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Can I turn redundancy into a ‘sabbatical’?

I’ve lost my job, but plan to use the next few months to brush up my skills – how do I describe this period to a potential employer?

Each Friday and Monday we publish the problems that will feature in a forthcoming Dear Jeremy advice column in the Guardian Money supplement so that readers can offer their own advice and suggestions. We then print the best of your comments alongside Jeremy’s own insights. Here is the latest dilemma – what are your thoughts?

I was made redundant at the end of December, the second time I’ve been redundant in five years. Previously it took me a few months to find a new job, which I looked for incessantly. I found that I was so desperate for a job that I took one where I really didn’t fit in and stuck with it until I was laid off after three and a half years. I’m an architect (in my mid 40s) and I believe that the practice I chose was detrimental to my career development, but with the downturn in the construction industry I was just relieved to be back in work.

This time, I’d like to use the time I’m off work more constructively by upgrading my CAD and design skills, and getting to grips with changes in the industry in areas where I want my career to develop. This will take some time but I’m already much happier than I was at my previous employer.

I’ve enough cash to keep me ticking over for about six months which in the current slump is probably a realistic period to find work and is, coincidentally, the length of a good sabbatical. So should I tell a future employer, during an interview, that I’m currently on sabbatical? I feel this empowers me more psychologically as I’ve “made” the decision to make changes in my career as opposed to being a “victim” of redundancy and its negative connotations.

• For Jeremy’s and readers’ advice on a work issue, send a brief email to dear.jeremy@guardian.co.uk. Please note that he is unable to answer questions of a legal nature or reply personally.

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HMV administrators axe another 464 staff and 37 stores

Latest closures – including all four Heathrow airport sites and the final Glasgow store – take total number of job losses to 1,500

Full list of 103 HMV stores set to close

HMV is to axe a further 464 staff and 37 stores, bringing the jobs toll since the retailer lapsed into administration to nearly half the workforce.

The latest closures at the failed music and DVD chain will bring the total number of unemployed staff close to 1,500, with a total of 103 stores earmarked for closure including the sites added in the latest cull.

Among the stores set to close in the wake of Wednesday’s announcement are all four Heathrow airport sites, along with a fourth Glasgow store, in addition to the three other stores already closing in the Scottish city. However, the flagship store in London’s Oxford Street will remain open for the time being.

Nick Edwards, a joint administrator at Deloitte, said: “As part of our ongoing review of HMV’s financial position, we have undertaken a further review of the store portfolio and have identified an additional 37 stores for closure. This step has been taken in order to enhance the prospects of the restructured business continuing as a going concern.

“Together with the previously identified 66 closures, this restructuring will result in a residual portfolio of some 116 stores.

“We are extremely grateful to the staff for their continued strong support and commitment during an understandably difficult period. All other key stakeholders including suppliers and landlords remain supportive and we appreciate their ongoing assistance.”

The company, which has debts of £170m, called in administrators last month after poor Christmas sales.

There was some hope for the company’s future after a temporary deal was struck with film studios and music labels to ensure new releases, such as the James Bond film Skyfall and Madagascar 3, continued to flow to its stores.

Negotiations with specialist investor Hilco continue after it acquired the secured debts from Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group. The company had already bought HMV Canada in 2011 and has built relationships with several distributors.

Earlier this month, administrators said they would shut 66 shops across the country, with the loss of 1,000 jobs. About 1,500 jobs remain.

When the chain collapsed, its gift cards, worth about £7m, were suspended, but these were later reinstated after a customer backlash.

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Making an insurance claim

If you unexpectedly lose your income and have mortgage payment protection insurance, it should cover your repayments

If you’re made redundant, suffer a serious illness or are forced to give up work, managing the loss of income is going to be hard. But if you were one of the millions who were persuaded to buy an income protection policy, there maybe a silver lining to your dark cloud.

Mortgage payment protection insurance was sold on the basis that it would make repayments on your mortgage (and other related expenditure such as buildings insurance), in the event of accident, sickness or unemployment knocking your income. Payment protection policies similarly promised to cover the repayments on a loan or credit card bill. They have been the subject of millions of mis-selling claims because they had so many exclusions that it was hard to claim, or were sold to those such as the self-employed who were unable to claim.

If you have an MPPI policy and the worst has since occurred, now’s the time to dust down your paperwork and go into battle, because it could be about to come to your aid.

About 2 million homeowners are believed to have MPPI policies. Research by the Competition Commission revealed that before the start of the recession 28% of premiums were paid out in claims, so some people have clearly been making claims.

How do I know if I have a policy?

The most obvious place to start is to ask your loan, credit card or mortgage providers whether you have any form of protection insurance policy in place.

This is the most likely source as the majority of policies were sold at the point the loan was taken out. Did a salesman ask you how you’d make payments if you fell ill and couldn’t work – and quote an premium of just a few pounds a week? If so you’re probably covered. If that doesn’t yield anything, then check credit card statements for any mysterious payments leaving your account.

What can you expect?

These policies vary enormously, and what you’ll get depends on the terms and conditions of the one you have. Typically MPPI policies normally start paying out in 30 or 60 days after being alerted and most will backdate the benefit so you’ll be covered from the point you are made redundant or signed off work.

Many policies limit the monthly payments covered, often to £1,500 or £2,000 a month, so those with bigger mortgages may find this it doesn’t cover all their outgoings.

Payouts are also often limited in relation to the size of the salary you’ve lost.

Preparing to make a claim

One key reason for a claim to be turned down is if there was a possibility that you would be made redundant before the policy started. If you are claiming for that reason, it’s worth establishing your story and getting chronology of events in place before you make the claim, to lessen the chances of a claims handler picking holes in your claim.

Also expect to come up with evidence, particularly if you make an illness claim. Stress and back pain are the two main reasons for people being off work, and insurers vary widely in terms of the information they require to prove claims for these conditions. Most want evidence from a specialist, not only your GP. NHS waiting times could make this a long process.

What if your claim is rejected?

If you make what you feel is a genuine claim and it is turned down for spurious reasons, or they make a lower offer than you feel you should have got, you have a few options.

In the first instance you should appeal to the insurer, who will tell you how to do this.

If this fails, you can take the matter to the Financial Ombudsman Service. This is free to consumers, but costs the firm involved up to £600 for each case. FOS is supposed to rush claims to the top of the pile where the claimant is suffering undue financial hardship, which given that you are not working you should be able to argue.

If you are really sure of the case, consider taking the matter to the small claims court. This will cost about £120, but you will get this back if the court finds in your favour. Only do this if you are sure the insurer will still be around to pay up if you win.

The last option is to take a mis-selling claim. Don’t use a claims handling firm, use Guardian Money’s template letter and again – be ready for a long wait.

One thing to note, insurance claims are not taxable, so a MPPI policy payments would not be counted as income. If you make a mis-selling claim and you awarded a payout, however, the taxman will deem that an income and will want his share at the appropriate rate.

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Another dark day for the high street as John Lewis cuts jobs

Surprise job cuts at John Lewis, one of the strongest players on the high street, came as 2,500 jobs were threatened at Republic, and 800 jobs went at Blockbuster

More than 3,600 retail jobs are at risk following another dark day for the high street that saw the collapse into administration of fashion chain Republic, the ousting of 325 managers at John Lewis and the closure of a further 164 Blockbuster stores.

The surprise job cuts at John Lewis, one of the strongest players on the high street, came as 2,500 jobs were threatened at Republic, and 800 jobs went at Blockbuster, which is already in administration.

John Lewis has been held up by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg as a model of “responsible capitalism” for the whole economy, and its job cuts will deepen the gloom about the UK’s financial trajectory. John Lewis staff, who are known as partners because they get a share of annual profits and can contribute to business decisions, were shocked by the imposition of cuts in the wake of a bumper Christmas. The job losses among the ranks of John Lewis department managers are thought to be the largest since 2009 when 700 in-store call centre employees got the chop and are a blow to John Lewis’s benign image.

Each John Lewis has about 10 department store managers looking after sections such as womenswear, beauty or furnishings. They are to be replaced by one or two more senior managers in 28 of John Lewis’s 40 outlets in a bid to save costs.

The cuts are part of John Lewis’s Retail Revolution plan. One insider at the company said that jobs had to go in stores because the majority of the company’s sales growth was coming online.

The managers affected have been given four weeks to put forward their views before a 90-day consultation on job losses starts in March.

The cuts at John Lewis come despite expectations that the its parent company, which also owns Waitrose, will reveal £475m in annual profits on 7 March.

Republic, which has 121 stores, was the latest to suffer in the face of online competition and the ailing UK economy. The Leeds-based business appointed Ernst & Young as administrators yesterday and immediately made 150 staff at its head office redundant. It is the latest in a long list of retail failures since Christmas, including Jessops, HMV and Blockbuster, with the total loss of up to 10,000 jobs. Hunter Kelly, joint administrator, said Republic had suffered from a “very sudden and rapid decline in sales in late January”.

Administrators for Blockbuster said they were closing another 164 more stores over the next few weeks, having shuttered 129 shops when it entered adminstration last month. Restructuring specialist GA Europe is believed to be among a number of parties interested in buying the remaining 235-store business, which called in administrators last month.

There was one spark of good news at Jessops, the camera retailer. Peter Jones, the Dragons Den entrepreneur who bought the rights to the Jessops name and its website, is rumoured to be interested in taking on a parcel of its stores, potentially as many as 30.

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Another dark day for the high street as John Lewis cuts jobs

Surprise job cuts at John Lewis, one of the strongest players on the high street, came as 2,500 jobs were threatened at Republic, and 800 jobs went at Blockbuster

More than 3,600 retail jobs are at risk following another dark day for the high street that saw the collapse into administration of fashion chain Republic, the ousting of 325 managers at John Lewis and the closure of a further 164 Blockbuster stores.

The surprise job cuts at John Lewis, one of the strongest players on the high street, came as 2,500 jobs were threatened at Republic, and 800 jobs went at Blockbuster, which is already in administration.

John Lewis has been held up by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg as a model of “responsible capitalism” for the whole economy, and its job cuts will deepen the gloom about the UK’s financial trajectory. John Lewis staff, who are known as partners because they get a share of annual profits and can contribute to business decisions, were shocked by the imposition of cuts in the wake of a bumper Christmas. The job losses among the ranks of John Lewis department managers are thought to be the largest since 2009 when 700 in-store call centre employees got the chop and are a blow to John Lewis’s benign image.

Each John Lewis has about 10 department store managers looking after sections such as womenswear, beauty or furnishings. They are to be replaced by one or two more senior managers in 28 of John Lewis’s 40 outlets in a bid to save costs.

The cuts are part of John Lewis’s Retail Revolution plan. One insider at the company said that jobs had to go in stores because the majority of the company’s sales growth was coming online.

The managers affected have been given four weeks to put forward their views before a 90-day consultation on job losses starts in March.

The cuts at John Lewis come despite expectations that the its parent company, which also owns Waitrose, will reveal £475m in annual profits on 7 March.

Republic, which has 121 stores, was the latest to suffer in the face of online competition and the ailing UK economy. The Leeds-based business appointed Ernst & Young as administrators yesterday and immediately made 150 staff at its head office redundant. It is the latest in a long list of retail failures since Christmas, including Jessops, HMV and Blockbuster, with the total loss of up to 10,000 jobs. Hunter Kelly, joint administrator, said Republic had suffered from a “very sudden and rapid decline in sales in late January”.

Administrators for Blockbuster said they were closing another 164 more stores over the next few weeks, having shuttered 129 shops when it entered adminstration last month. Restructuring specialist GA Europe is believed to be among a number of parties interested in buying the remaining 235-store business, which called in administrators last month.

There was one spark of good news at Jessops, the camera retailer. Peter Jones, the Dragons Den entrepreneur who bought the rights to the Jessops name and its website, is rumoured to be interested in taking on a parcel of its stores, potentially as many as 30.

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Republic collapses into administration – putting 2,500 jobs at risk

Fashion chain appoints Ernst & Young as administrators as it joins long list of post-Christmas retail failures

The Republic fashion chain has collapsed into administration – putting 2,500 jobs at risk.

The Leeds-based company, which has 121 stores and employs 2,500 people, appointed Ernst & Young as administrators on Wednesday and immediately made 150 staff at its head office redundant.

It is the latest in a long list of retail failures since Christmas, including Jessops, HMV and Blockbuster, with the total loss of up to 10,000 jobs.

Hunter Kelly, one of the administrators appointed by E&Y, said Republic had suffered from a “very sudden and rapid decline in sales in late January”.

“The impact on cash flows has resulted in the business being unable to continue to operate outside of an insolvency process. Unfortunately, it has been necessary to make 150 employees at the head office in Leeds redundant,” he said.

Kelly said Republic would continue to trade “with a view to selling the business as a going concern”.

“The brand Republic is well recognised, particularly in the north. It has a powerful website offering, owns well-known brand names, and has some very attractive and profitable stores,” Kelly added. “We are grateful for the continued support of all employees and customers during this time, and would like to thank everyone at Republic for their commitment and hard work as the business continues to trade.”

Republic, which sells youthful brands such as Jack Jones and SoulCal, was still offering vouchers for sale on its website on Wednesday afternoon. Retailers often refuse to accept vouchers as soon as a company enters administration.

HMV was forced to reverse its decision not to accept vouchers after Tory MP Sir Tony Baldry accused the retailer of theft.

Republic closed individual stores’ Twitter accounts last week after an HMV employee “live-tweeted” redundancies at the entertainment retailer, according to Drapers magazine.

Republic’s main corporate Twitter account was still tweeting on Tuesday night. The account, @RepublicFashion, failed to respond to numerous tweets asking if it was going bust. Lesbinum asked: “NOOOO @republicfashion are going into administration :'(“

Republic’s profits collapsed by 86% to £3.7m in the year to January 2012, the latest year available at Companies House.

Andy Bond, the former chief executive of Asda, quit as Republic’s chairman last week as the company brought in KPMG to help it offload some of its stores.

Republic was bought by private equity group TPG for £300m in 2010. Its previous owner, Change Capital Partners, a private equity firm run by former Marks & Spencer executives Luc Vandevelde and Roger Holmes, more than quadrupled its money by selling the chain to TPG.

TPG has twice been forced to pump in more cash to keep the chain afloat. In November TPG, Bond and Republic’s founders pumped in £20m. At the time, TPG said it wanted to at least double the number of Republic stores in the UK and Ireland to more than 200.

The chain was founded in 1986 in Leeds by Tim Whitworth and Carl Brewins. Whitworth started selling clothes as a Saturday boy on a market stall and went on to build Republic into a nationwide chain.

He left the business last year and was replaced by Paul Sweetenham, the former boss of TK Maxx in Britain.

Whitworth is said to have amassed a £60m fortune, according to therichest.org. He reportedly owned 23% of the equity at the time of the sale to TPG.

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Fashion chain Republic set to enter administration

The retailer, which has 121 stores and employs 1,600 people, is thought to be lining up Ernst & Young as administrator

More than 1,500 jobs are at risk as fashion chain Republic is expected to become the latest in a post-Christmas rush of retailers to collapse into administration.

The Leeds-based company, which has 121 stores and employs 1,600 people, is expected to appoint Ernst & Young as its administrator on Wednesday.

If it collapses, Republic will be the latest in a long list of retail failures since Christmas, including Jessops, HMV and Blockbuster, with the total loss of up to 10,000 jobs.

The youth fashion retailer has been hit by recent poor trading. Andy Bond, the former chief executive of Asda, quit as Republic’s chairman last week as the company brought in KPMG to help it offload some of its stores.

Republic’s profits collapsed by 86% to £3.7m in the year to January 2012.

The company was bought by private equity group TPG for £300m in 2010. Its previous owner, Change Capital Partners, a private equity firm run by former Marks & Spencer executives Luc Vandevelde and Roger Holmes, more than quadrupled its money by selling the chain to TPG.

TPG has twice been forced to pump in more cash to keep the chain afloat. In November TPG, Bond and Republic’s founders pumped in £20m. At the time, TPG said it wanted to at least double the number of Republic stores in the UK and Ireland to more than 200.

The company closed individual stores’ Twitter accounts last week after an HMV employee “live-tweeted” redundancies at the entertainment retailer, according to Drapers magazine.

Republic’s main corporate Twitter account was still tweeting on Tuesday night. The account, @RepublicFashion, failed to respond to numerous tweets asking if it was going bust. Lesbinum asked: “NOOOO @republicfashion are going into administration :'(“

Republic, TPG and Ernst & Young declined to comment.

The retailer was still offering vouchers for sale on its website on Tuesday afternoon . Retailers often refuse to accept vouchers as soon as a company enters administration.

HMV was forced to reverse its decision not to accept vouchers after Tory MP Sir Tony Baldry accused the retailer of theft.

Republic, which stocks brands such as G-Star, Levi’s and Diesel, had been trying to negotiate a deal to cut its rent bill. It was attempting to switch from quarterly to monthly rent payments and reduce rates where it could.

The chain was founded in 1986 in Leeds by Tim Whitworth and Carl Brewins. Whitworth started selling clothes as a Saturday boy on a market stall and went on to build Republic into a nationwide chain.

He left the business last year and was replaced by Paul Sweetenham, the former boss of TK Maxx in Britain.

Whitworth is said to have amassed a £60m fortune, according to therichest.org. He reportedly owned 23% of the equity at the time of the sale to TPG.

Anusha Couttigane, a consultant at retail research group Conlumino, said : “Despite TPG, the US-based private equity group which owns the brand, claiming that underlying sales have remained strong, annual accounts for January 2012 indicated that gross profits were down by 9.17% and it appears little has changed since then.

“Nevertheless TPG cites crippling rental rates as the main cause for the company’s breakdown, recently hiring KMPG in a desperate bid to offload some of its 121 stores.

“In light of this, news of its administration suggests that attempts to renegotiate monthly payments have failed, bringing the business to a complete standstill and landlords facing the prospect of more vacant units on the high street.

“Operating towards the value end of the market should have placed the retailer in a strong position to take advantage of the consumer trend towards low-cost fashion.

“However, its target youth market has been the hardest hit demographic of the recession and it has struggled to appeal to them as effectively as rivals such as Primark, ASOS or H&M.

“Fashion is a fast-moving industry where brand loyalty is fickle and Republic has failed to keep up with some pretty fierce competitors.”

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HMV administrators to make 930 staff redundant as they shut first 66 stores

Administrators for failed music store chain to close loss-making shops across country over next two months

HMV stores set for closure – the full list

Almost 1,000 HMV staff are facing redundancy as administrators for the failed music store chain revealed they will close 66 shops across the country.

The loss-making stores, including all five Edinburgh sites, three in Glasgow and four in London, will close over the next two months and comes as administrators from Deloittes plan to sell the company’s flagship Oxford Street store.

Joint administrator Nick Edwards said: “As part of our ongoing review of HMV’s financial position, we have now completed a review of the store portfolio and have identified 66 loss-making stores for closure. This step has been taken in order to enhance the prospects of securing the business’ future as a going concern.

“We continue to receive strong support from staff and are extremely grateful to them for their commitment during an understandably difficult period. All other key stakeholders remain very supportive and I continue to be hopeful of securing a future for the restructured business.”

HMV called in administrators in early January after poor Christmas sales. A further 3,000 jobs are at risk.

At first gift cards, worth around £7m, were suspended, but these were later reinstated after a customer backlash.

Restructuring group Hilco took over the retailer’s debts of around £176m from its lenders, including Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland, giving it effective control of the business but not ownership.

Hilco is thought to have the support of music labels including Universal Music, Warner Music and Sony for any takeover, having already bought HMV Canada in 2011.

It is thought that RBS and Lloyds were owed around £30m each as HMV’s biggest secured creditors. It is not known how much Hilco paid to take control, but it is expected to be well below the £60m the banks were owed.

The 930 job losses – the first shopfloor redundancies at the firm – add to the 190 losses at HMV’s head office and distribution arm and led to the company’s official Twitter account being hijacked by soon-to-be sacked staff who live-tweeted a meeting with HR at which they learned their fate.

This included “There are over 60 of us being fired at once! Mass execution, of loyal employees who love the brand. #hmvXFactorFiring”

Followed by: “Just overheard our Marketing Director (he’s staying, folks!) ask “How do I shut down Twitter?”

Later on, the employee, identified as Poppy Rose, said: “I hoped that today’s actions would finally show them the true power and importance of Social Media, and I hope they’re finally listening.”

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Rebellious HMV tweets are in a fine tradition | Richard Seymour

The retailer’s Twitter account went rogue. It’s always good to see workers take some control back over their fate

As the triple-dip recession hits, major stores have embarked on a jobs massacre. Jessops, Blockbuster and HMV have collapsed, placing thousands of jobs at risk. Having nothing to lose but their high street chains, HMV workers in Limerick responded by occupying a number of stores.

Today, as more HMV workers faced the sack, the company’s Twitter account was taken over by an angry employee. “There are over 60 of us being fired at once!”, one of the tweets said, although a total of 190 redundancies have been confirmed. “Mass execution of loyal workers who love the brand.” One hopes the workers have learned this much at least: loyal workers are always the first to get it.

“Under usual circumstances,” another tweet explained, “we’d never dare do such a thing as this.” But these are not normal circumstances, so “what have we to lose?”

Shortly before the tweets got deleted, the account was updated one last time: “Just overheard our Marketing Director (he’s staying, folks) ask ‘How do I shut down Twitter?'” Another lesson here: the cluelessness of management can always be used against them.

These scattered rebellions by HMV workers stand in a venerable tradition. When workers were threatened with redundancy at Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago, workers occupied and won a series of demands. When Ford Visteon workers were unceremoniously sacked, they occupied production plants and called for solidarity.

What these examples have in common is that they involve groups of workers taking some control over their fate. We treat “the market” as if it was some impersonal god, rather than simply the effect of human behaviour. It feels as if we have no way out. Taking control means defying the logic of “the market”. And this, in germinal form, constitutes the reappearance of an older tradition of workers’ militancy, from factory councils in Turin in 1919 to the Recuperados in Argentina in 2001.

In recent years, Occupy raised similar questions about how we can take control of our fate, forming “liberated” spaces for democratic discussion and planning activism. But what Occupy couldn’t successfully do was take control of the means by which real power is exerted. This is something that workers occupying factories, stores and even Twitter accounts have done first-hand. They are right to do so, and shouldn’t stop at protest and rebellion. In the best tradition of the labour movement, they should say “we don’t want just a bigger slice of the cake; we want the whole fucking bakery”.

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