Argos customers are facing “Christmas misery” after UPS staff in Barton, Staffordshire, chose to go into strike action over a 10-month-long pay dispute, union Unite has said.
Shunter and HGV drivers employed by UPS at Argos’ flagship distribution centre at Barton, near Burton on Trent, will commence over two weeks of strike action beginning 17 December after a pay claim submitted by Unite in March was “continually disregarded”.
Unite members, who are “critical” to the movement of goods at the Barton site, voted in favour of strike action which will start at 6pm on 17 December and end at 5.59pm hours on 31 December.
Unite said the treatment of the more than 50 shunter and HGV drivers has been “disgraceful”, and added that the only attempt at engagement being the offer of a voucher scheme that “so lacked in detail it could not be put to members in a ballot”.
Unite has warned that without the shunter and HGV drivers to manoeuvre loads on and off the Barton distribution centre, work at the site will effectively”grind to a halt”, causing “severe disruption” to Sainsbury’s-owned Argos at its busiest time of the year.
The Barton site is a critical hub of Argos’ national network and is the location from which all high end electrical items, including smart phones, laptops and televisions, are shipped to regional Argos distribution centres for delivery to stores.
Unite regional officer, Rick Coyle, said: “Unite has been waiting for an offer in response to our members pay claim since March. Drivers and shunters have been treated with contempt and have had enough.
“UPS is claiming that it has engaged with the pay claim. In reality, our members only received an offer of a voucher scheme that was so devoid of details that it could not be put to a ballot. Our members do not want to cause disruption for Argos customers over the Christmas period, but they have been left with no choice but to strike.”
He added: “The treatment of these Barton workers has been disgraceful. The reputations of UPS and Argos are at risk during the peak Christmas period because of this refusal to meaningfully engage with the pay claim.
“It is now up to UPS to ensure this dispute does not extend right across the busiest time of the year for Argos by tabling a sensible offer that our members can actually vote on.”
In response, a spokesperson for Argos said: “We have plans in place to maintain continuity of supply. No customer orders will be affected.”