Warehouse workers in Solihull and Leeds struck back against disgraced tycoon Sir Philip Green today, Friday.
Pickets in Solihull near Birmingham, who struck three times against poverty pay last December, were boosted by fellow GMB union members in Leeds joining them this time round.
John, a GMB member in Solihull, told Socialist Worker, “It’s good that Leeds are out with us because it makes it harder for management.”
Dave, another worker, agreed, “We have an impact because there’s a big back log afterwards.
“But they have a lot of agency staff working for them so having another depot out puts more pressure on them.”
The workers are fighting for the Living Wage of £8.45 an hour, but their anger goes much deeper than poverty pay.
Bill, a worker at the Solihull site, told Socialist Worker, “It’s just management’s general attitude that’s the problem. The working conditions have deteriorated a lot since I started many years ago.
“They sent out a survey asking what they could improve, but we’ve not heard anything about it since and I doubt we will.”
From the two depots the workers keep the Arcadia Group’s retail empire stocked across the West Midlands and Yorkshire.The pressure is constantly on as everyday they ship out hundreds of orders to high streets names such as Top Shop and Miss Selfridge.
John said, “We get our performance assessed every week.
“You could be on 100 percent or more for months, but if you drop down below 85 percent just once management are down like a tonne of bricks.”
He added, “There’s a three warning policy and on your third warning you’re out of the job.
“Management pick you up for lateness, low percentages and even sickness.
“You’re only allowed three sickness a year, but the problem is you can’t help being sick.”
Workers said that Arcadia neglects health and safety and working conditions. Edward explained, “It’s really cold in the warehouse.
“The heating hasn’t worked for two or three years but management say that they’re waiting for a part.”
Arcadia’s business model relies on the brutal treatment of its workforce
The company has a core workforce on permanent contracts and then hires agency workers on flexible contracts during “peak” times such as the run up to Christmas.
Jacob told Socialist Worker, “They put up a notice about the benefits of working for the company.
“One of the benefits was ‘minimum hours guaranteed’ – how is having hours a benefit?
“Another one was the staff sale, but they don’t happen that often and management get the best stuff and leave us with the crap anyway.”
Bosses have been on the offensive since the last walkout, but workers are determined to resist the attacks.
In Leeds there were over 50 workers on three picket lines and there was a similar turnout in Solihull.
Workers who aren’t in the union, such as those working for agencies, are beginning to show support. Jacob said, “We had one of the Romanian lads who works for the agency say he wants to join the union.
“They aren’t covered by the union agreement but they said they want to join the strike.”
The next strike is planned for 6am on Sunday.
They are showing that it’s possible to build the union and resist the bosses in an industry that’s tough to organise.
Every trade unionist should support their fight.
Solidarity boosts NEU union members
News in brief from workers' struggles
Outsourced cleaners are fighting back