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‘Thin edge of the wedge’

Angry Argos workers gear up to strike
Shaun Noble, Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

UK catalogue retailer Argos faces three weeks of strikes across its distribution network in a dispute over the failure of the company to negotiate a national agreement covering redundancy and severance packages.


Unite, which represents the 1,100 workers affected, warned that deliveries to customers will be severely hit, once the strikes by the warehouse staff begin early in the morning of Tuesday August 15 and ending early in the morning of Tuesday, September 5.


The four sites at Basildon in Essex, Bridgwater in Somerset, Castleford (West Yorkshire) and Heywood (Greater Manchester), covered by the employer/union national forum, will be joined by workers at the Barton Business Park, Burton-on-Trent who wish to be covered by the forum.


Unite is angry that Argos has failed to give guarantees at all its logistics sites that workers’ 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 said it is worried about the intentions of Argos, now owned by supermarket giant Sainbury’s.


Unite national officer for logistics and retail distribution Matt Draper said, “What we are faced with is the thin end of the wedge with Sainbury’s pulling the strings behind the scenes – and that the not-so-hidden agenda is serious cost-cutting to the detriment of our members.


“The transfer of the workers from Lutterworth to the Wincanton site at Kettering, whether they wanted to go or not, led to this strike ballot.


“We want a comprehensive national agreement with the employer covering redundancy and severance packages, as well as our members at Barton being covered by such an agreement and to be allowed into the national forum, if they so wish, which is not the case at present,” he added.


“These strikes will enormously affect deliveries to Argos customers as the firm works on ‘a just in time’ delivery policy. Even the smallest disruption or delay will adversely impact on the supply chain.


“We call on the management to negotiate a new agreement in a constructive manner and in good faith, otherwise this industrial action that our members overwhelmingly voted for, will go ahead. Unite’s door for talks remains open 24/7.”


Workers at the sites covered by the national forum voted 90 per cent for strike action and those at Burton-on-Trent by 94 per cent.



Sainsbury’s hit back at Unite, in a media statement today (August 2) saying that workers’ demands were “unreasonable” and potential strike action is “wholly unnecessary”.


Unite regional coordinating officer Paresh Patel responded, reiterating Unite’s view that the “this dispute is about the long-standing and legitimate grievances of our members who voted by massive margins in a democratic ballot for strike action.”


“This is not an action that they took lightly, but only after they came up against a negotiating brick wall with the Argos bosses,” he said.


“We would urge Sainsbury’s, that instead of issuing negative media statements, the management rolls up its sleeves and gets down to serious work to resolve this dispute – Unite is willing for positive talks at any time.


“Argos customers should be under no illusion; if there is a strike, deliveries to Argos stores will be hit.”


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