Argos drivers’ move to Eddie Stobart ignites new outsourcing row

Controversial haulier, Eddie Stobart Ltd (ESL), is set to become embroiled in another outsourcing row as Argos is gearing up to transfer 96 drivers to ESL. 

Unite, the country’s largest union, is seriously concerned that catalogue retailer Argos is proposing to transfer the last of its in-house driver workforce, based at Magna Park in Lutterworth, Leicestershire LE17 4XW, to ESL early next month. 

This follows a dispute, settled last month, which centred on the transfer of 87 Co-op Coventry-based drivers to ESL. The majority of the Coventry drivers preferred to take the severance package rather than go and work for ESL. 

Unite national officer for road transport, Matt Draper, said: “Eddie Stobarts has a very poor record of treating workers who have been TUPE’d [Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment)] to its operations.

“We regard what has been proposed by the Argos management as a serious threat to our members’ pay, and terms and conditions of employment. We urge Argos to rethink this plan which will be highly detrimental to hardworking and dedicated employees. 

“We are very likely to proceed to an industrial relations ballot, if common sense does not prevail.”

Argos outsources the rest of its driver network, about 350 drivers, to Wincanton and the ESL proposal has sparked concerns that the Wincanton drivers could also end up working for ESL. 

Matt Draper added: “While, as a union, we would prefer all workers to be employed in-house, we regard Wincanton as a superior employer to ESL – alarm bells are definitely ringing amongst the Wincanton drivers about what the future holds for them with this latest news.” 

In 2012, Unite was involved in a long-running dispute when Tesco in Doncaster TUPE’d 184 workers to ESL. The drivers were then issued with a termination of employment notice with no prospect of re-employment. Many of those drivers are still out of work.