Support the Burton Argos workers!

 

While of course the eyes of Momentum South Birmingham are mostly fixed on the general election and ensuring our city’s constituencies return Labour MPs, we should not forget that there are industrial disputes going on that can and should be supported.

 

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One of those is just down the road in Burton where Argos workers organised by the Unite are on strike.   

Argos warehouse workers who prepare deliveries for the catalogue 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. Despite repeated requests by Unite, Argos has refused to give guarantees at all its distribution sites that workers’ terms and conditions will be safeguarded in the future.

Mick Casey, a member of Unite’s executive council, said: “Argos has been despicable in the way they are behaving. This affects people’s lives, their families and whole communities.”

Donations and messages of support should be sent to:

Unite the Union Branch WM7680

Care of Mick. Casey, 140 BRANSTON RD, BURTON ON TRENT, DE14 3DQ

For readers information we’ve also cut and pasted below a press release from Unite welcoming the failure of Argos to secure an injunction to bring an end to the strike. There is also a piece in the Morning Star that can be read here.

 

Unite Press Release

For immediate use: Friday 26 May 2017

Argos loses High Court bid as warehouse strikes continue

A High Court judgement thwarting a further attempt by the retail giant Argos to stop a two week strike was hailed as a ‘significant’ victory by Britain’s largest union, Unite today (Friday 26 May), as it urged the company to stop trying to use the law to ride roughshod over workers’ legitimate concerns.

Today’s ruling is the second to go against Argos and comes just over midway through a two week continuous strike in a dispute over jobs and terms and conditions which started on 17 May.

Set to finish at 05:59 on Wednesday (31 May), the ongoing stoppage is causing disruption to store deliveries and involves approximately 1,400 warehouse workers at Argos distribution centres in Basildon, Bridgwater, Burton-on-Trent, Castleford, Heywood and Lutterworth.

The warehouse workers, who prepare deliveries for Argos stores, are fearful that a culture of contracting out and the reduction in operating sites will lead to 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. Despite repeated requests by Unite, Argos has refused to give guarantees at all its distribution sites that workers’ terms and conditions will be safeguarded in the future.

Commenting Unite national officer Matt Draper said: “The retail giant would do well to start engaging constructively with Unite, rather than repeatedly trying to use the law to ride roughshod over workers’ legitimate concerns and prolonging disruptive industrial action.

“Having seen how Argos has treated colleagues who were transferred to Wincanton, Unite members are seeking reasonable guarantees about terms and conditions.

“They are justifiably concerned 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.

“Argos needs to send its senior decision makers to negotiate meaningfully with Unite, if a resolution is to be found.”

Unite assistant general secretary for legal services Howard Beckett added: “For the second time, a judge has ruled against Argos and its attempts to stop legitimate and lawful strike action. This significant ruling deals a blow to those employers who seek to silence workers and use bogus TUPE procedures to cut costs and terms and conditions.

“This is a dispute which won’t be settled in the court room, but around the negotiating table. Unite urges Argos to start engaging constructively and offer the guarantees directly employed warehouse workers are seeking.

“Once again Unite’s legal services have demonstrated that Unite will not allow its members to be bullied and silenced by employers, such as Argos. Bad bosses should beware that Unite will use the full might of the law to defend its members and their lawful right to strike.

“Unite would like to place on record its thanks to Thompsons Solicitors and Richard Arthur, as well as Ben Cooper QC of Old Square Chambers in assisting with this matter. We would urge Argos to get around the table to reach a negotiated settlement.”

Towards an Effective Industrial Strategy for Britain

 

by Charles Regan

Britain, alone among western Europe’s major economies, does not have an industrial strategy. Ever since 1979, successive governments, New Labour as well as Conservative, have  elected to consign the fate of Britain’s industries to ‘the market’. Since 1979 manufacturing as a share of the overall economy has shrunk from 29% of GDP to 11%, leaving Britain import dependent and shifting from a balance of trade equilibrium in 1979 to a balance of trade deficit of  up to £13 billion per month by the latter part of 2016. Unemployment stands at c. 6 million, or 20% of the workforce, when total unemployment is calculated, when people on work programme, workfare, benefit sanction, DWP mandated ‘training courses and others are included.

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Background

In 1945, a Labour government was elected with a majority  of 145 seats, on a radical programme which included taking strategic industries such as coal, steel and transport into public ownership and an active and interventionist industrial strategy founded on collaboration between governments, employers and trades unions,  providing a stable  foundation for postwar economic revival. The principles that government implemented were adopted by every successive government until 1979.  The ‘postwar consensus’, as it was called, ensured more or less continuous full employment, funding for industry and  increasing prosperity for ordinary people and their families. Its policies also led to a decline in  Britain’s national debt from a level of 250% of GDP in 1945 to less than 50%  thirty years later.

Following the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979, the  policies of the postwar consensus were abandoned. Industrial strategies were ditched. Britain’s publicly owned industries were sold off. Investment funding was truncated and Britain’s financial sector became increasingly focused on short term, risk free, maximal returns. ‘New Labour’ under Tony Blair enthusiastically  embraced  Thatcherite  policies of non intervention in the economy and  belief in an  economy based on finance and services.  Many manufacturers, starved of funding, closed down. Those sold off to overseas buyers often closed  and the order books were taken to other factories overseas. By mid 2009, Britain’s  balance of trade deficit had ballooned to £6 billion per month as Britain became yet more import dependent. Since then, the situation has worsened.

A New Industrial Strategy

An industrial strategy for the 21st century should  include the following;

1) A  commitment from government to a re-balancing of Britain’s economy away from  emphasis on finance and ‘services’

2) A reduction in the balance of trade deficit with a goal of achieving equilibrium

3) The lessening of Britain’s import dependence

4) Full employment through  the creation of skilled, well paid jobs in resurgent manufacturing industries

5) Re-skilling Britain’s workforce to provide trained employees in resurgent industries

6) The safeguarding and reinforcement  of strategic industries through public ownership, either wholly or in part
7) A reduction in overseas ownership and control of Britain’s industrial sector

8) The creation of  a national investment bank tasked with providing investment capital for industry on terms congruent with the needs and timescale of industry

The organisation set up and charged with implementing  Britain’s industrial strategy should  comprise stakeholders including government, the finance sector, public and private firms, workers’ representatives, local councils, trades unions and  schools, colleges and universities.

A detailed analysis of  the present position would establish the basis for future planning and resource allocation, and include the following;

a)  what firms presently produce and their production capacities

  1. b) what R and D exists and in which fields
  1. c) identifying imports and deciding which, out of these, Britain could produce itself
  1. d) what skills exist in the workforce at present and where
  2. e) what training and courses are currently available, and what  will be needed in order to train the workforce  needed to perform the jobs which will be created
  1. f) what level of financial resources will be required in order to provide the required investment capital for industry, and over what timescales would funding be required

 

To kick start demand for British products the adoption of a holistic public sector procurement procedure which would tend to favour British suppliers. This measure would offer  gains in the short term and  assist longer term growth. Holistic procurement policies are already in place in several other EU member states.

Where British products are no longer  made, policies of import substitution would  form a solution in the short to medium term. These  include  making products under licence from an overseas manufacturer,  while at the same time providing ultimately for  products designed and made here.

A new industrial strategy for Britain is essential  to ensure that the talents and abilities of all our people, regardless of background, are harnessed and  to enable them  to live stable,  prosperous and fulfilling lives.