Increased costs put 22 Tweedbank jobs at risk

Emma and Barry Graham say Tweedbank community initiative company bookdonors needs an urgent cash injection to stay afloat.
Emma and Barry Graham say Tweedbank community initiative company bookdonors needs an urgent cash injection to stay afloat.
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The future of a Borders not-for-profit community interest company which employs 22 workers is in doubt due to multinational commerce company Amazon hiking its fees.

Bookdonors, run by husband-and-wife team Barry and Emma Graham, is now on borrowed time and has applied to the Scottish Government for emergency funding to stay open.

It collects unwanted second-hand books from charity shops across Scotland and also accepts donations.

Books are graded, collated and shelved in the company’s Tweedbank Industrial Estate warehouse and sold on to online customers worldwide.

Started in 2005 in an attic by Lawrie Hayworth as a way to get long-term unemployed people back into the workforce, the company hires its staff via job schemes.

Many of its workers started as volunteers and were taken on as staff, but they could find themselves unemployed again unless the company can get on a level footing.

Managing director Barry said: “The problem is when Amazon raised its fees, over the course of a year that added over £100,000 per year to our running costs.

“The postal carrier we use has also put its prices up, which led to £40,000-50,000 more on postage every year.”

The company used to sell books in too bad a condition for sale on to a paper recycling company, but now it has been told it could soon have to pay for that service too.

Customer service and collections manager Emma told us: “It’s not one of these businesses you can just walk away from. We know everyone who works here.”

Mr Graham added: “It’s been a very testing couple of years since Amazon put up its fees.

“We do have a business plan ready to go in which I can see keeping the business working, but we need time in which to implement it.

“We want to continue to offer job opportunities and getting people back into work and also giving books to local schools which are badly in need of them.”

A spokesperson for Amazon told us: “We strive for fairness in our fees and a level playing field for all our sellers.”

One of the Bookdonors staff, Maria Davy, of Tweedbank, told us: “The staff here are friendly and we all get on.

“I was long-term unemployed before I did eight weeks’ volunteering, and they took me on for over the Christmas period two years ago and they kept me on.

“The problems are making me very antsy. The thought of re-entering the job market is not pleasant.”

Another worker, Gary Smith, of Galashiels, told us: “I’m really worried as I have two autistic kids. I’ve had jobs in the past, but none as special as this one.”

A crowdfunding appeal has been launched and the business has raised £1,250 of its £10,000 target so far.

Visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk and search for Bookdonors for details.