Socialist Worker

Court loss for bosses boosts Argos strikers

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2556

Argos strikers enjoy the sun in Basildon

Argos strikers enjoy the sun in Basildon (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Argos distribution workers finished their first round of strikes on the front foot after bosses failed to get an injunction against their action.

The Unite union members were set to return to work on Wednesday after a two-week strike demanding guarantees around their jobs and conditions.

Around 1,400 workers are involved in the dispute.

It was triggered by Argos’s announcement that nearly 500 would be transferred from its hub in Lutterworth, Leicestershire, to Wincanton logistics in Kettering.

Bosses’ failure to block the strike legally has “made workers rather buoyant”, Unite rep Steve told Socialist Worker.

“When it was announced on the picket line on Friday afternoon a big cheer went up and everyone was really happy,” he said

“It means they now have to accept we have a legitimate dispute so they can’t stop further action—and there will be further action if they don’t get round the table.”

Squuezing

Argos has long been trying to squeeze the working conditions of its distribution workers, and the outsourcing threats are part of this.

Bosses’ wishlist included “key performance indicators” to measure workers’ activity on a minute by minute basis. But union members’ resistance has meant they haven’t had it all their own way.

And paring the workforce down leaves less and less room for error—giving workers more power to cause disruption.

Running to the law also forced bosses to show their hand—and their weakness.

Steve said, “As part of its injunction the company applied for damages, and to do that they had to say how they accounted for it—and that meant saying how many workers were taking part.

“They’d come out on sites and tell pickets, ‘Oh, you’re not having any effect’. But the claim for damages said that between 75 percent and 80 percent of workers had gone out. That’s a great result.”

The Argos workers’ success shames those unions that have called off action in the face of legal challenges rather than standing up to them.

Unite should build on it with more strikes to win cast-iron guarantees that outsourcing won’t be used to grind down working conditions.

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