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From The Socialist newspaper, 11 March 2020

Argos workers in Sainsbury's stores threatened with losing collective bargaining

Argos-Sainsbury's, photo Martin Pettitt/CC, photo Martin Pettitt/CC

Argos-Sainsbury's, photo Martin Pettitt/CC, photo Martin Pettitt/CC   (Click to enlarge)

Iain Dalton, Usdaw Broad Left chair

Argos has announced the transfer of its staff working in Sainsbury's shops to Sainsbury's itself.

Since purchasing Argos for 1.4 billion in 2017, Sainsbury's has now opened several hundred Argos shops within its stores. As this expansion has continued, many of these have replaced pre-existing Argos stores.

It is clear that management are conducting a policy of levelling down terms and conditions. Last year Argos staff bonuses halved in value from 10 to 5, the same amount currently received by Sainsbury's workers.

The transfer would mean protection for a year. But then, while workers would get a pay increase to 9.20, they would lose paid breaks, premium payments and the right to take bank holidays off.

Also, Usdaw the shop workers' union, has collective bargaining rights for Argos staff - but Sainsbury's has much weaker agreements with Usdaw and Unite the Union in its stores, which do not include collective bargaining rights. This will weaken the position of those staff being transferred.

As we pointed out in relation to the Asda-Sainsbury's potential merger, there is a need for trade unionists on both sides of any merger to come together to plan a campaign to level up terms and conditions to the best level in either company - or better! Failing to do so leaves the door open for the company to 'divide and rule' and level them down.

Unfortunately, this has been the case in Sainsbury's where Usdaw and Unite meet separately with the company, one after the other. Reps across the two unions urgently need to come together and plan a campaign to win a joint collective bargaining agreement with the company.

At the same time, negotiations on the Argos pay award for this year have been taking place. It is just above the Tory 'living wage' at 8.50 for over 25s. Not only is this less than that of Sainsbury's, but it falls short of Usdaw's four-year-old demand for a 10 an hour minimum wage.

Like in Morrison's last year, workers in Argos are frustrated by low pay and may well vote down the pay offer. In which case, Usdaw's response cannot be to again refuse to mobilise the membership to fight for more.

Members meetings should be organised to discuss with the national negotiating team to put in a counter-offer, with serious discussions about what campaigning, coordinated between Usdaw and Unite, can be done to back this up, up to and including industrial action.

If Usdaw refuses to fight for Argos workers now, it will be in a far weaker position when it inevitably attempts to transfer the remaining Argos workers onto Sainsbury's contracts and destroy the remaining collective bargaining rights.

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In The Socialist 11 March 2020:


Coronavirus: Full NHS funding now

Coronavirus infects the world economy

Flybe collapse: nationalise to save jobs threatened by Covid-19 and downturn

Coronavirus: international cooperation needed, not capitalist competition

Supermarkets are ruled by profit - unions should control supply limits

For full pay during isolation: for public health as well as workers' wallets

Self-isolation patients speak: NHS facilities and advice not up to it

Italy on lockdown: lack of resources and democracy causes panic

South Korea shows capitalism has money to respond to coronavirus

Coronavirus news in brief


Domestic Violence bill: We still need to fight to save our services

News in brief

Workplace news

Postal workers mobilise to win strike reballot

Homerton Hospital workers fight for sick pay

Fighting to transform the union in my warehouse

Argos workers in Sainsbury's stores threatened with losing collective bargaining

Homeless charity workers to strike against intransigent management

Southampton trade unionists say "defend the right to strike!"

Strong support for PCS Broad Left Network

East London uni and bin worker strikes

US election

How can Trump be ousted from the White House?

Campaigns and party news

Salford 'no-cuts' budget includes cuts and tax rises

Stoke council unions beat pay cuts - now let's stop all cuts

Is there an anti-cuts rebellion in Scotland?

Socialist Party joins International Women's Day protests

Housing workers explain reality to idiot Boris Johnson

Swansea: Ask anyone about state of services, you will hear the real story

Camarthenshire: Councillors' 'walk of shame'

Student occupation in support of striking workers

Selling the Socialist

Socialist Party executive committee positions

International news

Greece-Turkey border refugee crisis

Women's and trans rights

Women's rights, trans rights and the labour movement

Readers' opinion

Film: Greed directed by Michael Winterbottom

Childcare - costly, inadequate and hard work

Book: Why you should be a trade unionist by Unite general secretary Len McCluskey

The Socialist Inbox


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