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Argos workers strike in Bridgwater over pension row
CROWDS of workers at Bridgwater’s Argos distribution centre have gone on a four-day strike following a row over pensions.
Argos is closing its Group Final Salary Pension Scheme in favour of one linked to share prices and profits, which Unite workers fear would deprive them of thousands of pounds upon retirement.
The Mercury met with warehouse operatives and six official picketers at the centre yesterday, one of four depots involved in strike action. The picketers went on strike in the early hours of yesterday morning and will continue until 6am on Monday (September 24).
Dorothy Fogg, regional officer for Unite, told the Mercury: “Argos is giving different levels of pension benefit. The further up the management tree, the better the pension will be.
“Workers feel they are missing out quite a bit. Many work four days and have four days off. Those that were assigned to work at the time of the strike have sacrificed their pay in order to encourage their employer to rethink negotiations.
“We are very willing to talk it out, as you can never talk too much when people’s finances are at stake.”
An argos operative who did not wish to be named said talks about the pension scheme broke down on Tuesday and picketers will be approaching delivery drivers with leaflets letting them know what was going on.
They added: “We’ve got around 40 to 45 supporters here today. I’m confident this action will lead to further negotiations. This is our last option.
“The Final Salary, which was gold-plated, has been replaced with a money purchase scheme which equates to around 50% of what we would have got before. It encourages staff to buy into the pension scheme and gives managers a higher proportion in pensions.”
A spokesman for Home Retail Group, which sells products under Argos and Homebase, said it was currently engaged in individual consultation with colleagues from the Bridgwater centre, following five months of collective consultation.
He described the new pension arrangements as ‘competitive’, adding: “Despite only 30% of union members voting in favour of industrial action, Unite have decided to proceed with strike action.
“This action will only impact a proportion of our distribution network and stores are unaffected. We have a range of contingency measures to draw on and we are committed to ensuring that there is no disruption for our customers.”