Socialist Worker

Argos strikes have the bosses worried

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2569

Argos strike supporters in Bridgwater

Argos strike supporters in Bridgwater


Workers at Argos distribution centres entered the third week of their three-week strike on Monday.

One striker told Socialist Worker, “There are a lot of people out and it’s certainly having an impact.

“We’ll be discussing our options for what to do after this strike, and there will definitely be more industrial action if there needs to be.”

He warned bosses, “The longer this drags on, the closer it gets to Christmas.”

The busy period for Argos starts as early as October and strikes then could “panic” the bosses.

Some 1,100 Unite union members are taking action at Basildon in Essex, Bridgwater in Somerset, Heywood in Manchester, Barton near Burton-on-Trent and Castleford in West Yorkshire.

They want guarantees to stop a repeat of what bosses did to 500 colleagues in Lutterworth, Leicestershire.

First their contracts were transferred to logistics firm Wincanton.

Then Wincanton told them to transfer to sites in other counties or give up their jobs.

This sneaky method meant bosses could make sackings on the cheap without paying redundancy settlements.

Forced

Workers want a transfer package linking any future forced relocations of that nature to redundancy-type payouts.

They also want to bring workers at Barton into national bargaining—something Argos was “refusing point blank” to consider in talks last week.

This is a crucial part of the dispute, the striker explained. “National bargaining means that if one site is attacked every site can come out to defend them. By not letting Barton join it they make it harder for us to defend each other.”

Three weeks in, Argos’s attempts to ride out the strike with agency workers, Wincanton lorry drivers and managers have come unstuck.

At Barton Unite caught out two agencies, Single Resource and Templine, hiring agency workers to cover strikers’ jobs, the union said. This is illegal.

After Unite went public and threatened to sue, Argos reached a settlement with it.

At Heywood, workers report that lorries are few in number and visibly almost empty. Fewer agency workers are going in and managers are leaving earlier.

Picket lines there are small, partly because the police insist that there must be no risk of blocking the road. Their worries point to the workers’ potential power.

Heywood covers Argos stores across Ireland and much of Britain. A mass picket could cut them all off and disrupt other firms.

In Bridgwater supporters from the trades council gave out leaflets to Argos customers outside the store.

There will be more opportunities for such solidarity if further action follows.


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