Argos drivers’ move to Eddie Stobart sparks strike

The row over Argos’ plans to transfer 96 drivers in Leicestershire to controversial haulier Eddie Stobart Ltd (ESL) has now sparked two sets of strike action next week, involving more than 400 workers at the Lutterworth site.

Unite, the country’s largest union, called on Argos to reconsider its decision to transfer the drivers to ESL due to take place on Sunday 12 June.

The key concern of the 420 workers is that if the drivers are transferred to ESL that the rest of the workforce will follow with possible detrimental effects on pay, employment conditions and job security.

The warehouse and admin staff will strike for six days starting at 00:01 on Tuesday 7 June, ending at 05:59 hours on 12 June. The drivers will strike from 00:01 on 7 June, concluding at 23:59 hours on Saturday 11 June.

The Unite members voted by 75 per cent for strike action and 80 per cent for industrial action short of a strike in a bid to remain employees of Argos.

Unite regards ESL as a poor employer with a hostile attitude to its workers. Only in April, Unite settled a dispute 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.

Paresh Patel, Unite regional coordinating officer, said: “The strength of the mandate for industrial action reinforces our members’ clearly stated desire to remain employed by Argos.

“The management can avoid this action by rescinding the decision to outsource the drivers to Eddie Stobart which has a bad reputation in terms of employee relations.

“If Argos persists in their hard line against the drivers, we will be demanding two things.

“Firstly, that our members are offered decent severance packages should they wish not to work for ESL – it is noted that in the Co-op Coventry deal the vast majority of the drivers decided to take the severance package rather than put their futures in the hands of ESL.

“Secondly, those drivers who do transfer have their pay, and terms and conditions protected for at least three years under the TUPE arrangements [Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment)].

“Finally, we want Argos management to engage with Unite well in advance in future should they be considering similar plans for the rest of the workforce. If the bosses had come to Unite in the first place, we could have put forward counter-proposals that may have averted this strike action.

“Unite’s door remains open for talks and, even at this eleventh hour, we urge Argos to get around the table for talks for the sake of its employees, its customers and its reputation as an employer.”

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

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.