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9 July 2008

Argos warehouse workers vote to strike

Argos distribution workers have voted by 67% to strike over pay. A senior steward for Unite at the Argos distribution centre in Basildon, spoke to The Socialist about the dispute and about organising distribution workers:

"We will be striking over our annual pay deal and the move from weekly to monthly pay. Argos make millions in profits, yet they only offered us a 3.8% pay rise when inflation was running at 4.1%.

They did say they would offer us 4.1% but that would be at the cost of eating into our sickness scheme. They have already cut into this before so it is clear the company want to get rid of it.

The directors give themselves big pay rises and bonuses, so it is an insult to us to say there is no money.

On the move from weekly to monthly pay, we've asked for a one-off payment to cover the transitional period when we have to go without money.

The union's concern is that our members don't lose out financially.

At the moment they are offering us loans, with 40 a month repayments, which is completely unacceptable. With the cost of living going up, an additional payment of 40 a month could mean the difference between losing our home and keeping it. Yet the company seems quite miffed that we want money for this change.

As we've explained to them, we're low-waged unskilled workers. Many are already up their eyes in debt with CCJs etc and they can't afford loan payments.

On our site the manager originally said we would bring the union in over his dead body. But we have got organised so now we have 80% membership.

We've had about 15 people join in the last few weeks.

We're trying to recruit agency staff at the moment. We have been successful in recruiting Polish workers who have been really supportive of us. They are some of the most vocal for the strike.

Originally they were tied to an employment agency and tied to houses but we've stopped that. Now the migrant workers have broken down the barriers by standing side by side with us trying to improve our pay and conditions. The company would prefer to divide and rule."

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