A High Court judgement thwarting a further attempt by the retail giant Argos to stop a two-week strike was hailed as a ‘significant’ victory by Unite today (May 26), as it urged the company to stop trying to use the law to ride roughshod over workers’ legitimate concerns.
Today’s ruling is the second to go against Argos and comes just over midway through a two week continuous strike in a dispute over jobs and terms and conditions which started on May 17.
Set to finish at 5.59am on Wednesday (May 31), the ongoing stoppage is causing disruption to store deliveries and involves approximately 1,400 warehouse workers at Argos distribution centres in Basildon, Bridgwater, Burton-on-Trent, Castleford, Heywood and Lutterworth.
The warehouse workers, who prepare deliveries for Argos stores, are fearful that a culture of contracting out and the reduction in operating sites will lead to a deterioration in their terms and conditions.
Earlier in the year Argos revealed plans to transfer nearly 500 workers from its Lutterworth distribution hub in Leicestershire to Wincanton logistics in Kettering. Despite repeated requests by Unite, Argos has refused to give guarantees at all its distribution sites that workers’ terms and conditions will be safeguarded in the future.
“The retail giant would do well to start engaging constructively with Unite, rather than repeatedly trying to use the law to ride roughshod over workers’ legitimate concerns and prolonging disruptive industrial action,” said Unite national officer Matt Draper.
“Having seen how Argos has treated colleagues who were transferred to Wincanton, Unite members are seeking reasonable guarantees about terms and conditions.
“They are justifiably concerned about being transferred to another company or being offered alternative employment on potentially inferior terms, if they are unwilling to travel to a new site.
“Argos needs to send its senior decision makers to negotiate meaningfully with Unite, if a resolution is to be found.”
Unite assistant general secretary for legal services Howard Beckett added, “For the second time, a judge has ruled against Argos and its attempts to stop legitimate and lawful strike action. This significant ruling deals a blow to those employers who seek to silence workers and use bogus TUPE procedures to cut costs and terms and conditions.
“This is a dispute which won’t be settled in the court room, but around the negotiating table. Unite urges Argos to start engaging constructively and offer the guarantees directly employed warehouse workers are seeking.
“Once again Unite’s legal services have demonstrated that Unite will not allow its members to be bullied and silenced by employers, such as Argos,” Beckett noted. “Bad bosses should beware that Unite will use the full might of the law to defend its members and their lawful right to strike.
“Unite would like to place on record its thanks to Thompsons Solicitors and Richard Arthur, as well as Ben Cooper QC of Old Square Chambers in assisting with this matter. We would urge Argos to get around the table to reach a negotiated settlement.”