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Argos fails in legal bid to prevent union calling strike

The retail giant Argos has failed to get a court order restraining the Unite union from calling strike action in a dispute over staff relocation.

The issue arose after Argos announced that there would be a TUPE transfer of one of its distribution centres to another company.

The employees affected had a clause in their contracts stating that should there be a need to change a centre's location then a consultation would take place with the union. The union had a bilateral arrangement with the Argos providing a national forum where the parties could discuss matters.

Although Argos had agreed to transfer employees' existing terms and conditions, there were concerns around the longevity of those terms once transferred to the new company.

The union summarised the matters on its voting paper, including:

  • demanding a guarantee on all existing terms and conditions
  • requiring that any national forum site would remain part of the national forum in the event of a transfer
  • a relocation package would be agreed
  • voluntary redundancy would be available for those that could not or did not wish to move sites.

Argos believed that the union had engineered a dispute over nothing as there was no plan to carry out any further outsourcing. It applied to the court to restrain the union from inducing its members to continue to take part in industrial action.

The High Court refused the application. It held that the union was likely to prove that the dispute was about the current terms and conditions governing the employees, as defined in the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.

The union's list of points on the ballot paper was an adequate summary of the matters in dispute, and its defence was likely to succeed. It was apparent that the union was asking for a guarantee which meant something more than that which was secured by the current terms, conditions and arrangements.

To find out more about JPP's employment law services please visit employment law

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