With only three shopping weeks left in the Christmas shopping season, employees at 31 Argos brances in Ireland abandoned their tills and making for the picket line.
Talks, which lasted until late last night, were held between the trade union Mandate and Argos management at the National Implementation Body, ended without agreement being reached resulting in today’s action.
The Retail giant which has 680 stores dotted around the UK and Ireland, last year announced profits which exceeded €8.1 billion, profits are also up 50% for the first half of this year. Yet they are unwilling to increase their workers wages by 10%. With most workers earning €9.00 an hour a 10% increase would raise their hourly rates to €9.90.
In 2000, Argos and Mandate agreed to negotiate wage increases on a yearly basis without being subject to social partnership.
With tensions between workers and management simmering for the last few weeks as the threat of a strike grew, pressure has been put on seasonal workers and weekend employees of Argos not to join the Union for fear of loosing their jobs. The shop steward of the Swords branch of Mandate, Shane McNamara, told me how workers were even brought into management offices and had it outlined to them exactly what joining with Mandate, would mean to their future in Argos.
Another feature of today’s strike was the use of “scab” labor, with Argos shipping in Welsh and English stooges to undercut their fellow workers strike for fair pay on this side of the Irish Sea.
If Argos refuses to meet the Unions demands it looks likely that the 31 branches which struck today will be taking to the picket lines a few more times between now and the cutting of the Turkey.
Written by Kbranno for Indymedia.ie