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UK retailer Argos faces severe disruption to its Christmas deliveries from a 72-hour strike by Wincanton drivers operating out of the retailer’s national distribution centre (NDC) in Barton-under-Needwood.
Set to commence at midnight on 20 December, the action is in response to allegations that Wincanton has failed to honour the last two years of holiday back-pay.
Some 83% of drivers in the Unite union voted for a full strike, with 95% voting for some form of industrial action.
Unite says each employee is owed an average of £700, adding that a strike would cause “havoc and mayhem” and lead to a knock-on effect across Argos’s distribution network. The Sainsbury’s-owned retailer’s regional DCs are all supplied by the Staffordshire NDC.
Unite regional officer Rick Coyle claims the drivers have “patiently” tried to resolve the matter, which concerns the way holiday pay is calculated, and says legal cases have established that overtime and extra shift payments should be considered when assessing holiday pay.
“This dispute has lasted for over two years and now they [the drivers] would like the money they are owed in time for Christmas, which is not unreasonable,” said Mr Coyle.
“It is very difficult to understand why Wincanton has allowed this saga to get out of hand, because this strike by our members will cause havoc and mayhem to deliveries to Argos shops in the run-up to Christmas.”
A spokesperson for Wincanton said the company was disappointed with Unite’s announcement, given that at Unite’s request it had scheduled a meeting this morning with ACAS to resolve the issue.
“This follows Wincanton’s announcement to change its holiday pay calculations to include overtime for the first 20 days of annual leave entitlement taken in each holiday year,” added the spokesperson.
The union said that a proposal from Wincanton to backdate the holiday pay from April this year was insufficient, noting that the pay should cover at least the past two years, hence the estimated £700 owed to individual drivers.
However, that was disputed by Wincanton.
“The change to holiday pay applies to all employees who receive overtime payments and therefore exceeds Wincanton’s obligations in line with recent holiday pay rulings and statutory guidance. We are committed to ongoing dialogue with Unite the union,” said the spokesperson.
Unite told Argos customers the action had been proposed as a last resort in response to the long-running dispute, adding that its “door is always open”.
In a separate dispute, Wincanton drivers working at the Argos centre in Basildon in Essex are voting on whether to take industrial action over a disciplinary system relating to “uncontrolled vehicle movements”. The result of this ballot is due on Friday.