WORKERS at the Argos Warehouse in Bridgwater are joining in a two-week national strike in a dispute over job security and terms and conditions.

The strike began this morning (Wednesday, May 17) and will run for two weeks.

It's estimated that 1,400 warehouse workers will take part in the strikes in warehouses across England - including staff from the warehouse on the Huntworth Business Park.

An anonymous worker from Bridgwater said around 200 staff members are taking part.

He said: "We want to make sure we are protected if we are transferred."

Deliveries to Argos stores in England, Wales and Ireland could be severely disrupted because of the strike.

The strike involves members of Unite working for Argos at the retailer’s distribution centres in Basildon, Bridgwater, Burton-on-Trent, Heywood and Lutterworth. 

The warehouse workers who prepare deliveries for Argos stores are fearful that a contracting out culture will lead to job losses and a deterioration in their terms and conditions. 

Earlier in the year Argos revealed plans to transfer nearly 500 workers from its Lutterworth distribution hub in Leicestershire to Wincanton logistics in Kettering. 

Dave Chapple from Bridgwater Trades Union Council said: "“Not for the first time, Unite members who work in the Argos regional distribution warehouse at Huntworth, Bridgwater, are out on strike to defend their basic conditions at work.

"This is not a fight of their choosing; not a fight for more pay; not a fight for better shift or overtime payments: they are seeking guarantees from Argos-a company now owned by Sainsbury PLC- that should they be contracted-out to a third-party company, or out-housed to other premises, their current wages and conditions remain or a redundancy package be given to those who cannot relocate.

"They are also seeking to retain a national bargaining group of the six warehouses involved.

"The strike is not a fight against local Bridgwater Argos management-all six Argos warehouses nationally are involved. However, Unite the Union at the Bridgwater depot, as we would expect, is very well organised, and might be seen by aggressive national Argos bosses as key.
"This is why Bridgwater Trades Union Council is calling for local trades unionists, in Bridgwater, Somerset and Bristol, to show solidarity with the 280 Unite members at the Huntworth picket lines, staffed, as a minimum, around shift change-overs at 6am, 2pm and 10pm every week-day."

Unite national officer, Matt Draper, said: “We are deeply disappointed at the belligerent and aggressive stance Argos has taken. 

“Unite had hoped that we could have reached a negotiated settlement when we attended talks at the conciliation service Acas the other week. Instead Argos has sought to use the law to ride roughshod over its workers’ concerns and refused to engage positively.

“Our members have legitimate concerns about being transferred to another company or being offered alternative employment on potentially inferior terms, if they are unwilling to travel to a new site. 

“They are fearful that a contracting out culture will take hold and have asked for guarantees about terms and conditions going forward, in addition to the ability to take voluntary redundancy if a site moves and they cannot transfer. 

“The silence from the company is doing nothing to allay those fears and points to a cost cutting agenda. Unite urges Argos to start engaging constructively and offer the guarantees its directly employed warehouse workers are seeking.”  

An Argos spokesman said: “We strongly believe this dispute to be wholly unnecessary as the union has made a series of demands in the full knowledge that they cannot be met, for legal reasons.

"We are disappointed with the court’s ruling against our injunction based on a technicality but will be submitting a further application.

"We can reassure customers that we have strong contingencies in place and their orders and deliveries will not be affected.”