Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/15268

Posted on 19 September 2012 at 21:58 GMT

Striking Argos workers, Basildon depot, 19.9.12, photo Dave Murray

Striking Argos workers, Basildon depot, 19.9.12, photo Dave Murray   (Click to enlarge)

Workers strike as Argos tightens the screws

Dave Murray spoke to Unite members at Argos's Basildon depot

Unite union members at Argos are taking strike action against their employer's decision to end their final salary pension scheme.

The scheme was closed to new entrants some years ago, and, having closed the scheme the company is now leaning on its workers to join a new one which does not offer a pension based on earnings, but works as a savings scheme, leaving retired workers at the mercy of the financial services industry at the point of their retirement.

The union is demanding a compensation package for Argos workers who are affected by the shutdown.

The attack on pensions is just the latest move by Argos to tighten the screws on its workers. The Unite union won recognition at the Basildon depot 12 years ago, but only after a long campaign by its members, who faced down management threats of dismissal in order to organise a majority of workers.

Since then, the bosses have systematically tried to undercut wages and undermine the union by using agency staff wherever possible; according to management, 62% of the Basildon workforce are 'temps' employed on lower wage rates through an agency.

Agency assault on workers' rights

In a further assault on the idea of 'the rate for the job' Argos now uses two separate agencies, Transline and Single Resource, paying workers different rates depending on which agency supplies them.

At best agency workers get a six-month contract, with a requirement that they must be prepared to work 20 out of 24 Sundays.

All workers are subject to relentless pressure to cut down 'idle time' and meet 'Key Productivity Indicators'; they face a ruthless response if they are forced to take sick leave.

In fairness, not all Argos employees are under the cosh. Chief executive Terry Duddy 'earned' 1.1 million last year. His pension fund is worth 4 million and will pay out 187,000 a year on retirement.

'Hard luck' story

His management underlings in Basildon have made it clear that in the New Year they intend to recruit permanent staff at below the current union rate, claiming lack of profitability in the face of stiff competition from online stores - like all bosses, they are always ready with a 'hard luck' story.

In reality the dispute is part of a concerted attack by employers in both the public and private sector on the hard won wages and conditions of workers everywhere.

The strike runs for four days from Wednesday 19 September. There will be pickets at distribution depots, and the union will be leafleting Argos stores to explain to customers what a shoddy deal Argos gives its employees.


Lutterworth

Argos striking workers on the picket line in Lutterworth, photo Steve Score

Argos striking workers on the picket line in Lutterworth, photo Steve Score   (Click to enlarge)

The Unite picket line outside the Argos distibution centre at Magna Park, Lutterworth, was well supported, with workers taking shifts to cover it round the clock.

Passing lorries, nothing to do with the dispute, were hooting their horns as they drove past the big Unite banner.

Parish Patel, Unite regional officer said: "Our members feel very strongly about the company's decision to close the final salary pension scheme and offer a lesser scheme.

"It will mean people working longer and getting less. The company has rejected our proposals. Our members want to make a stand and defend their pensions.

"The company are being hypocritical - the directors' pension scheme is staying in place, they will walk away on retirement with handsome figures!"

Another worker commented: "This is the thin end of the wedge, they want to attack all our terms and conditions.

"If they had their way they would have us in there working for tuppence an hour. This is a cash rich company; where's all that money gone they made in the past?"

There was support amongst the pickets for the idea of uniting with public sector workers and taking general strike action around the issues that affect us all. As one worker put it: "It should have happened ages ago!"

Steve Score

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 19 September 2012 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.






Related links:

Argos:

triangleThree week Argos strike ends

triangleUnite takes legal action against Argos

triangleThree-week Argos distribution strike

triangleArgos: aggressive bosses met by determined strike

triangleArgos fails to pay staff minimum wage - taxman cuts fine in half!

Strike:

triangleWorkplace news in brief

triangleRMT strikes against driver-only operation continue

triangleHackney school cleaners strike

triangleHome care workers to strike

Union:

triangleFerrybridge: Workers down tools over unpaid wages

triangleTunisia: explosion of protests against government austerity

trianglePCS union 2018 elections - nominate the left slate for a continued fighting leadership

Basildon:

triangleEssex FBU fight lockout

triangleClacton Tory MP defects to Ukip

Pension:

triangleUCU members balloting for action on pension cuts

Agency workers:

triangleBin workers - fighting back wins!

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

22/1/18

Sudan

Sudan: Free Mohamed Satti

22/1/18

London

Women rally defiantly

22/1/18

Obituary

Red Mary - a Force of Nature

17/1/18

Women

Socialist Party women's meeting brings together members to share experiences

17/1/18

Newham

Packed Newham meeting against academies

17/1/18

Liverpool

Lobby pushes Liverpool council to oppose privatisation

17/1/18

Barking

Heating scandal on east London estate

17/1/18

Policing

Undercover policing legal challenge

17/1/18

Woolwich

No to the Woolwich monster block

17/1/18

Union

Workplace news in brief

17/1/18

Union

PCS union 2018 elections - nominate the left slate for a continued fighting leadership

17/1/18

Hackney

Hackney school cleaners strike

17/1/18

RMT

RMT strikes against driver-only operation continue

17/1/18

Yorkshire

Ferrybridge: Workers down tools over unpaid wages

17/1/18

Cuts

We must fight all council cuts!

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle22 Jan Women rally defiantly

triangle22 Jan Red Mary - a Force of Nature

triangle17 Jan Corbyn's Labour needs 100% anti-cuts strategy and fight for democracy

triangle17 Jan NHS crisis: under pressure from all angles - end cuts and sell-offs!

triangle17 Jan We must fight all council cuts!

triangle16 Jan Home care workers to strike

triangle15 Jan Carillion crisis: Demand action to save jobs and services

More ...

triangle23 Jan Bristol North Socialist Party: 'You can't have capitalism without racism' - was Malcolm X correct?

triangle23 Jan Cardiff West Socialist Party: How the Poll Tax was beaten

triangle24 Jan Caerphilly Socialist Party: The Carillion scandal

triangle24 Jan Cardiff Central Socialist Party: Carillion collapse - Watershed moment for public services

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

January 2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2