Another win for the Brexit brigade? The decision by online retailer Asos to hire 1,500 staff over three years, as part of plans to expand its London head office, will no doubt be portrayed that way by Theresa May’s Government.
Following similar announcements by Facebook and Google, both of which plan to increase their UK workforces despite the uncertainty created by Brexit, the announcement is an early Christmas present for ministers, especially the hardcore Brexiteers among them.
“London is pretty special,” Asos boss Nick Beighton said as he explained the decision, while they were high-fiving each other in Whitehall.
He plans some pretty special treatment for the people who are going to work for him at his art deco palace too. There’ll be a “wellness centre”, a training academy, a quiet zone library, a tech bar, even a concierge service so staff don’t have to worry about day to day annoyances such as getting the boiler fixed while they’re at work.
It looks sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? You do rather wonder what Asos workers in Barnsley will make of the reports while they’re trying to go through the day without taking too many drinks, or going to the loo. “Inaccurate” and “misleading” is how Asos described reports that staff there operated in a highly pressurised environment which limited those things. That didn’t stop the GMB union from staging a demo at the pre-expansion HQ, or MPs from promising to investigate.
But I’m getting away from main the point, which is why the company has chosen London, with all the uncertainty that comes with doing anything in a Britain where you have no idea of what the trading situation is going to be in a couple of years time.
Partly it is because, as Mr Beighton pointed out, London is indeed pretty special. It’s a global city with a ready supply of young, talented, highly qualified, and ambitious workers who’ll cheerfully burn the candle at both ends (and keep that concierge service busy while they’re at it).
It’s also the capital of a country that is preparing for the nearest thing in Europe to Trumponomics. Which means rock bottom corporate taxes combined with an ultra-flexible labour market that allows companies to hire, and especially to fire, as they please.
The minimum wage is a bit higher than corporate Britain would like, but the people who will inhabit Asos’s new HQ will be earning a lot more than that, as will all the new Googlers and Facebookers who join those companies in the months to come.