Socialist Worker

Argos workers store up anger for strike

by Yuri Prasad
Issue No. 2110

A 24-hour strike by more than 1,000 Argos warehouse and distribution workers is set to hit the giant retail chain on Thursday this week. It will likely cause chaos as stores fail to receive their normal deliveries.

Management insist they will not increase the 4 percent pay offer and are now carrying out a propaganda campaign among workers in the hope of weakening the action.

“There is a constant stream of letters coming from the bosses,” says Nigel Ruddy, who is the Unite union convenor at Argos’s Magna Park depot in Lutterworth, Leicestershire.

“They are trying to persuade people that Unite does not have their best interests at heart, and that the union is damaging the business and industrial relations.

“But not many people are falling for that. Everyone at my place is geared up for the strike and there have been no shortage of volunteers for the picket lines.

“Most of us think that with effective action we can make management think again about the pay offer, and that if we don’t take action they will try and cut our terms and conditions by a little more each year.

“So far, management have said that they will only discuss improvements to the pay offer if we accept other attacks, like on our sick pay scheme.

“They insist that the total amount of money on the table will not change. Rightly, people are saying where will we be in five years time if we don’t fight them now?”

Workers at Argos are set to strike again on Thursday of next week. This will be followed by a four-day rolling strike starting on 30 July at Bridgwater, 31 July at Basildon and Heywood and 1 August at Magna Park.

“The company will be hit really hard if it comes to a four-day shutdown over the weekend,” says Nigel. “Stores will run out of goods at a really important time.”

Bosses are hoping that casual workers will be key to keeping their warehouse operations running during the dispute.

But trade unionists across the business have reported that many non-permanent staff have joined the union recently.

Many more are asking whether the union can protect them if they refuse to cross the picket lines.

Over recent months Unite activists have played a crucial role in bringing Polish workers, recruited as casuals, into the union.

There will be picket lines from about 6am in Basildon in Essex, Bridgwater in Somerset, Heywood in Greater Manchester and Magna Park in Leicestershire.

Messages of support to Jennie Formby, Unite national secretary. Email jennie.formby@unitetheunion.com


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News
Wed 16 Jul 2008, 18:58 BST
Issue No. 2110
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