Strikes have forced bosses at high street giant Argos to improve their 3.8 percent pay offer to warehouse and distribution workers. The company now says it is prepared to give workers 4.1 percent immediately, to be followed by 2 percent in December and 2 percent in August next year.
Unite union reps from around the country met in London last week to discuss the offer. Nigel Ruddy, convenor of the Magna Park depot in Leicestershire, told Socialist Worker that the union was happy that one day of solid strike action had shaken the bosses but that he felt the offer was still poor.
The offer is being put to workers in a series of workplace ballots early this week, with the result being announced after Socialist Worker goes to press. Despite management’s insistence that the union advise its members to accept the new offer, Unite declined and will make no recommendation. Strike action is set to resume on Thursday of this week if the offer is rejected.
“Originally management told us that there could be no improvement in the offer without attacks on our sick pay scheme,” says Nigel. “But the strikes forced them to drop that idea.
“However, the people I represent are not going to be happy with the new offer. Firstly, it does not meet the rising cost of living. Secondly, management are still insisting on moving us to monthly pay.
“The new offer included an extra week’s pay to help tide people over, but that still means that we will be going without money for two weeks. The company has offered loans, but on the rates of pay Argos pays, most cannot afford the repayments.
“I think our members are expecting a much better deal that this, and it is the workforce that are pushing the stewards to step up the fight, not the other way round.”
If the workplace ballots reject the company’s offer, Unite is set to move straight to a rolling programme of four-day strikes. This will hit the company hard at a time when it has just issued its new catalogue and is expecting to high sales and regular deliveries of new stock.
The company has already indicated that it intends to respond to any resumption of strikes in an aggressive fashion. Union activists attending last week’s national reps meeting told Socialist Worker that Argos may attempt to seek a high court injunction in an attempt to get the action declared illegal.
But, according to Nigel, workers are in no mood for such tactics.
“People were really disappointed not be on strike last week, after we called off our action to discuss the new offer. Now everyone is gearing up for the four-day action, and I think management will be taken by surprise by the strength of feeling.”