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Argos warehouse staff strike

09 July 2014

About 1,000 warehouse staff employed by Argos at five distribution centres went on strike for 24 hours on Friday, 4 July in a dispute over weekend working.

The dispute has seen Argos and Unite, the union clash over the way incentive payments have been offered to employees. Argos says the vast majority of employees have accepted these payments. Unite counters that Argos has told employees that those who don't accept the payments will be dismissed. 


The strike hit the company's internal distribution centres at Basildon, Bridgwater, Castleford and Magna Park (Lutterworth, Leicestershire) and Heywood (Greater Manchester).


Unite national officer for road transport and logistics, Matt Draper, said: "The crux to the dispute is Argos’ determination to push through a new 24/7 shift pattern, without offering our members a decent compensation package to offset the severe disruption to their personal and family lives at weekends.


"In many cases, it is going to cause havoc with childcare arrangements and mean spouses and partners will see much less of each other. The company’s plans will seriously undermine the ‘work/life’ balance.


"Some of our members already work weekends, but that was agreed with Unite. The new proposals impact much more on family life. The management has offered a one-off payment of £2,400, which, quite frankly, is woefully inadequate, given the massive changes in shift patterns that are being proposed for the years ahead.


"The proposals also include a new measuring system for their work which, we believe, could be used as a tool to dismiss workers.


"We urge the employer to return to the negotiating table and relax the new strict criteria. This would allow us to reach agreement, once the management has recognised the impact its plans will have on our members’ lives."


The union predicted the strike could cause substantial disruption to customer deliveries.


The workers previously staged a 24 hour strike on 15 June against these plans.

Argos: 99.8 per cent of our Distribution colleagues have accepted the changes to their contract and many have already received their £2,000 transition payment.

Handling & Storage Solutions approached Argos for comment and they said the shift change is part of a five-year transformation plan to become a digital retail leader.

Argos added: "99.8 per cent of our Distribution colleagues have accepted the changes to their contract and many have already received their £2,000 transition payment. 

 

"Distribution colleagues are key to the success of our plans, and we will be recruiting 350 new permanent Distribution jobs as part of this process.


"New shift patterns have been developed in partnership with Unite, with a focus on maintaining our colleagues’ work/life balance. Colleagues will be asked to work one extra weekend day per six-week period, but their full weekends off work will actually increase from two in six to three in six. We are now working hard to understand and address any outstanding queries or issues.

"We have been advised of the strike, and have contingency plans in place to ensure a normal service for our customers."

Unite's Draper responded: "While many colleagues have "accepted" the transition payment, this has been done because they have been told if they don't, they will be dismissed and re-engaged without the payment.

"If they don't accept the new terms they will be dismissed. Unite believes that the company has the ability to recruit more full time employees. The new employees recruited will be employed on lesser terms and conditions than existing employees.

"We want Argos to loosen the criteria to allow a better work/life balance."
 
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