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Exclusive: Argos appoints union-buster to enforce distribution worker contract changes

Retail giant attempts to introduce Saturday working and cuts to overtime rates

Retail giant Argos has deployed a notorious union-buster to break resistance to draconian contract changes being imposed on distribution workers, the Morning Star can reveal.

Thousands of Unite union members working at the company’s nine distribution centres staged their second strike over the dispute yesterday.

Reps reported a bumper turnout on picket lines, which began at 5.30am and went through until the night shift at 11pm.

Workers ramped up their fight against performance management measures that include forcing staff to clock in and out for breaks so bosses can spy on their every move.

Saturday working and slashed overtime rates are also part of the new contract, which an Argos statement said has been signed by 99.8 per cent of affected staff.

A Unite rep, speaking anonymously to the Star for fear of retribution, said that was because the options were to “sign or be sacked.”

The workplace rep claimed new Argos chief executive John Walden, recruited from the US, has hired industrial relations consultant Bill Gregory to lead an “American-style union-busting” campaign.

Mr Gregory boasts on his LinkedIn profile that he has “extensive experience of dealing with trade unions at challenging times.”

The profile shows Mr Gregory was advising Southern Cross Healthcare from July 2011, when the firm sparked an industrial dispute with its plan to sack 3,000 care workers.

It also documents a nine month spell as interim HR director of Stansted Airport for BAA that preceded a major strike by baggage handlers.

And Mr Gregory has used his record to threaten Unite reps in the ongoing Argos dispute, the Star was told.

The rep said: “The first time we mentioned industrial action he turned around and said: ‘You need to be very careful — we took one of your executive out’ — meaning that they sacked unite executive council member Lisa Carr in the BAA dispute.

“Very threatening, very intimidating.”

The Star also understands that Unite reps have been leant on by Argos distribution director Phil Hull while the union’s Bridgewater convener was suspended on “trumped-up charges.”

Argos claims its changes will create 350 new distribution centre jobs.


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