Argos’ plans to transfer nearly 500 workers from its Lutterworth distribution hub in Leicestershire to Kettering are widening out to become a countrywide dispute.
Unite, the country’s largest union, is angry that Argos has failed to give guarantees at all its logistic sites that workers’ terms and conditions will be safeguarded in the future. The union estimates that about 1,400 of its members could be affected.
The union said it is worried about the intentions of Argos, now owned by supermarket giant Sainsbury’s, and is considering the possibility of an industrial action ballot in protest.
Besides the Magna Park depot in Lutterworth, Argos’ other sites are at Barton (Burton-on-Trent), Basildon in Essex, Bridgwater in Somerset, Castleford (West Yorkshire) and Heywood (Greater Manchester).
Today representatives from the sites will be staging a lobby outside Sainsbury’s headquarters at 33 Holborn, London at 13.30.
The dispute was sparked last month by the decision to TUPE – Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations – more than 400 Unite members at Lutterworth to Wincanton Logistics in Kettering from 13 March.
Unite national officer for road transport and retail distribution Matt Draper said: “What we are faced with is the thin end of the wedge. We suspect that the new owner, Sainbury’s is pulling the strings here – and that the not-so-hidden agenda is serious cost-cutting to the detriment of our members.
“Employees at Magna Park will be forced to transfer to Wincanton or be offered alternative employment on potentially inferior terms, if they are unable or unwilling to travel to the new site which is 25 miles away in Northamptonshire.
“All Argos sites, including Magna Park, have asked the company for guarantees about terms and conditions going forward and the ability to take voluntary redundancy, if a site moves and a member cannot or does not want to transfer.
“The management has refused to give these reasonable guarantees – and hence the protest on Monday. We are also looking at the possibility of an industrial action ballot.
“Argos has refused to allow an independent company to analyse the business case, which has further fuelled suspicions about the company’s intentions. We will strongly oppose any attempt at ‘a race to the bottom’ when it comes to pay and conditions.
“This is an attack on the collective bargaining arrangements and a way of undermining wages and maximising profits at the expense of workers’ wages.
“We are looking at widening this dispute to include other Argos directly-employed workers across all it sites, including those who fall under the current national agreement and those that do not i.e. at Barton.”
The lease at Magna Park is due to end this year and Argos has decided it does not wish to renew it. The total workforce – up to 500 workers – will be affected.