Argos customers are facing Christmas misery after UPS staff in Barton, Staffordshire, were forced into strike action over a ten month long pay dispute, Unite said today (December 3).
Shunter and HGV drivers employed by UPS at Argos’ flagship distribution centre at Barton, near Burton on Trent, will commence 16 days of strike action beginning December 17 after a pay claim submitted by Unite in March was continually disregarded.
Unite members, who are critical to the movement of goods at the Barton site, voted overwhelmingly (90 per cent) in favour of strike action which will start at 6pm on December 17 and end at 5.59pm on December 31.
Unite said the treatment of the more than 50 shunter and HGV drivers has been ‘disgraceful’, with the only attempt at engagement being the offer of a voucher scheme that so lacked in detail it could not be put to members in a ballot.
Making matters worse, Argos spent months insisting that the claim could not be lodged, arguing that the workers were midway through a previously agreed two year pay deal, before acknowledging that the claim was in fact valid.
Unite warned that without the shunter and HGV drivers to manoeuvre loads on and off the Barton distribution centre, work at the site will effectively grind to a halt, causing severe disruption to Sainsbury’s owned Argos at its busiest time of the year.
The Barton site is a critical hub of Argos’ national network and is the location from which all high end electrical items, including smart phones, laptops and televisions, are shipped to regional Argos distribution centres for delivery to stores.
Unite regional officer Rick Coyle said, “Unite has been waiting for an offer in response to our members pay claim since March. Drivers and shunters have been treated with contempt and have had enough.
“UPS is claiming that it has engaged with the pay claim,” he added. “In reality, our members only received an offer of a voucher scheme that was so devoid of details that it could not be put to a ballot.
“Our members do not want to cause disruption for Argos customers over the Christmas period, but they have been left with no choice but to strike.
“The treatment of these Barton workers has been disgraceful. The reputations of UPS and Argos are at risk during the peak Christmas period because of this refusal to meaningfully engage with the pay claim,” Coyle went on to say.
“It is now up to UPS to ensure this dispute does not extend right across the busiest time of the year for Argos by tabling a sensible offer that our members can actually vote on.”