More than 1,000 workers ended a seven-day strike on Friday of last week. The walkout hit five Argos distribution hubs and was against a “12 point plan” of attacks on their contracts.
These would make them easier to sack, and leave them less control over when they could work. It introduces performance management targets and extends weekend working. It also describes longer hours as a pay rise. Pickets held a picket line barbecue at Basildon, Essex. And in Castleford, West Yorkshire, pickets were buoyed by supporters who brought them ice creams.
The workers are members of the Unite union.
At Magna Park in Leicestershire one striker told Socialist Worker, “We are standing up in defence of our jobs.
“There are just over 400 people who work here, and well over 100 have been on the picket line through the week. Nationally there are 1,300 striking.”
The strike also hit centres at Bridgwater in Somerset and Heywood in Greater Manchester. It helped disrupt the launch of Argos’ new catalogue, one of its busiest events of the year.
As well as filling the stores with new lines of products, Argos has to take the old ones back to the manufacturer for a refund. This isn’t being done—despite highly paid managers from far and wide braving jeers and vuvuzelas on the picket line to scab in Castleford.
A backlog is building up which, if not processed in the next few weeks, could become more than the computer system is able to handle. And strikers are sceptical that bosses can find people to do overtime to shift it.
Outside some Argos stores, staff giving out the new catalogue also had to compete with supporters of the strikers giving out Unite leaflets. Strikers believe the bosses are beginning to buckle under the pressure, and could be in talks with the Acas conciliation service by next week. But if not, they are more than prepared to go out again and beat the hated new contracts.
Thanks to Mike Grisenthwaite and John Davies