Unite announced it had launched legal action against the catalogue retailer, Argos and two employment agencies today (August 23) after it emerged the retailer was attempting to break a strike by using agency labour.
In legal letters of claim, Unite accuses Argos and the employment agencies, Single Resource and Templine, of acting unlawfully by using agency labour to cover striking workers at Argos’ central distribution centre at the Barton business park, Burton-on-Trent.
The Argos workers at Barton, along with colleagues at Basildon in Essex, Bridgwater in Somerset, Castleford (West Yorkshire) and Heywood (Greater Manchester), are in the second week of a three- week strike over the company’s failure to negotiate a national agreement covering redundancy and severance packages.
Over 1,100 Unite members are involved in the stoppage that started on Tuesday, August 15 and is set to end on Tuesday, September 5.
The legal claims pave the way for a high court injunction if Argos and the employment agencies continue to breach regulations that make it illegal for agencies to provide workers to cover strikes. It also comes ahead of talks tomorrow (August 24) at the conciliation service Acas between Unite and Argos.
Commenting Unite assistant general secretary for legal services Howard Beckett said, “Unite has evidence that Argos, Single Resource and Templine have been involved in what we believe is the illegal use of agency staff to break lawful industrial action.
“As part of our legal action we will be seeking full disclosure from Argos and the two employment agencies of any information relating to the use of agency workers during the strike.
“Argos bosses should be under no illusion,” he added. “Unite will pursue the matter through to the high court if they and the two employment agencies involved continue to collude and act in what we understand to be an unlawful manner.
“Unite will not tolerate strike busting and would urge Argos to focus its attentions on ending the strike, rather than failed attempts at trying to break the strike.”
Unite national officer Matt Draper added, “Argos bosses need to stop exploiting agency workers to break this strike and wake up to the determination of our members.
“Argos’ crude attempts to undermine lawful industrial action will only serve to stiffen the resolve of our members and prolong the disruption that strike action brings.
“We would urge management to engage constructively and positively in talks and hammer out an agreement that deals with our members’ concerns.”
Unite is angry that Argos has failed to give guarantees to workers at its logistics sites that their future terms and conditions will be safeguarded, after nearly 500 workers were transferred from its Lutterworth distribution hub in Leicestershire to Wincanton Logistics in Kettering, Northamptonshire.
The union has said it is worried about the intentions of Argos, now owned by supermarket giant Sainsbury’s.