Activist 83: Coronavirus crisis special

Special issue on the Coronavirus crisis and

Categories: The Activist Tags:

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

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.

Categories: Updates Tags: , ,

Activist 82

December 4, 2019 Leave a comment

Features articles on the 2019 UK General Election, Morrisons pay deal and how technology is used to exploit warehouse workers

Usdaw Activist 81: Save Our Shops Special

September 26, 2019 Leave a comment

Save Our Shops campaign special of the Activist

Solidarity with retail workers affected by Walthamstow Mall fire

A huge fire tore through Walthamstow Mall this morning. The mall has 66 retail stores plus restaurants which will now be closed for the foreseeable future. We wish those hurt a speedy recovery and salute the 150 firefighters who tackled the blaze.

We stand in solidarity with the mall’s retail and service workers and call for no loss of pay for all those workers affected and for travel allowances to be paid to workers who will be transferred to other stores and be forced to travel.

We also call for the mall workers and their trade unions to be involved in the investigation and to lead any inquiry.

The Save Our Square campaign, which represents thousands in the community who oppose privatisation and redevelopment of the area around the mall, have called a meeting Thursday 25 July, 7.30pm at William Morris Community Centre on Greenleaf Road, Walthamstow. Workers are welcome to attend to discuss the response to the fire.

Scott Jones,
Usdaw shop workers’ union East London retail branch chair (personal capacity)

Categories: Updates Tags: ,

Give members a vote on pay deals in Tesco

Usdaw members in Tesco have not had a vote on pay for over two decades since the union and the company entered into a partnership agreement in 1998. Over time Tesco members have seen an erosion of terms and conditions, cuts to premiums, redundancies, low hour contracts, flexi contracts and staff shortages. As well as a decline in Usdaw membership in Tesco.

We believe every member should have the right to an individual vote on their pay. We call for a return of the ballot on pay to replace the current ‘forum’ process. And we have an opportunity to strike a blow now as a first step towards this.

At the 2019 Usdaw annual delegate meeting in Blackpool in May a proposition was moved forward by North Sussex calling for a ‘one member, one vote’ in Tesco pay negotiations. The proposition called for the Tesco membership to have the individual right to vote on their pay by an in-store ballot run by reps in a similar way as distribution sites, and in companies such as Morrisons.

The pay deal would still be negotiated by the national forum but the final say would ultimately sit with the Usdaw membership in Tesco. The proposition was vigorously debated and culminated in a card vote – For 235,577 (68.85%) and Against 106,600 (31.15%).

Usdaw’s executive committee has decided to refer the terms of the proposition to the national officer with responsibility for Tesco for action as appropriate. To help deliver the sentiment behind this proposition, if individual members of Tesco wish to gain the right to vote on their pay it is imperative that they raise it on their staff forums for escalation to the Store Director Forum (SD Forum).

I encourage all Usdaw members in Tesco, submit this issue to be discussed in your store forum to go the SD Forums and make sure your voices are heard!

Amy Murphy, Usdaw President (personal capacity)

Categories: Updates Tags: , , , ,

Vote No to the Morrisons’ Pay Deal

Heading into British summertime sees the latest controversial pay deal in the retail sector. The latest Morrisons pay deal is amid controversy and arguably caused more headaches for rank and file shop stewards than the 2016 Pay Deal which saw the removal of Sunday premiums.

There is a general feeling among reps along the front line, that this could be the most controversial and talked about pay deal among the Morrisons membership of the past twenty years.

So why so much unrest?

Perhaps it is Morrisons clear attempts to undermine Usdaw. So was the introduction of the new sevice reward scheme (commonly known as the Christmas bonus) and removal of the old one part of the pay deal? Or as the company claim was going to happen anyway so the deal is simply for the 30 pence increase to the base rate (taking it up to £9 per hour).

What is clear is that Morrisons gift for timing is not only clearly undermining the recognised trade union, but it has angered long serving Usdaw members within Morrisons.

The equal frustration is over the clear lack of strong statements from the National negotiating team of reps, headed up by Usdaw’s National Officer Joanne McGuinness. All reps have simply been told, the union do not support nor recommend refusing the pay deal. We are simply told this is the best deal that could be reached.

But this poses questions as well. If this deal were too be rejected, will members be balloted for industrial action? Will it go to arbitration?

Arbitration would be far from ideal. Given the lack of tradition of strike action in UK retail, then serious preparations would need to be made to mobilise the workforce if strike action was necessary to win a decent pay offer.

What is clear that Usdaw needs to make bigger noises to involve the membership in important pay deals. The Morrisons current pay deal presents the ideal opportunity to show strength to our membership before the likes of Tesco’s, Coop and Sainsbury’s follow suit and erode more terms and conditions. Like many reps up and down the country I will be urging my members to reject this offer.

A Broad Left member in Morrisons

Categories: The Activist Tags: ,