By Maximilian Clarke

Agency workers at Argos in Burton on Trent, Staffordshire will be demonstrating on Thursday, 22 December against ‘pay apartheid’ which sees their pay packets up to £120-a-week lighter than their full-time colleagues.

Up to 300 agency workers, officially employed by Adecco, will be holding a whistle-blowing demonstration at the Argos site at Barton Business Park at 12.00pm on Thursday, 22 December, with ‘Scrooge’ Christmas cards to be signed and sent back to the management.

Top bosses from Argos, the UK’s leading general goods retailer, will be visiting the business park at that time.

Unite, the largest union in the country which represents the agency workers, said that Argos and Adecco were putting pressure on the agency workers to sign new ‘derogation’ contracts, which will mean that they won’t receive a £3-an-hour pay rise on Christmas Eve - a total of about £120-a-week.

This would have given them pay parity with the 330 full-time staff employed by Argos at the site doing similar distribution, transport and admin jobs.

Unite said that Adecco, part of the world’s largest HR services group and sponsor of next year’s London Olympics which will be providing the 23,000-strong workforce for the Games; and Argos were batting the pay issue between themselves, and were not prepared to take responsibility for ensuring pay parity. The union described the present situation as ‘unacceptable pay apartheid’.

“This is a cynical ploy, just days before Christmas, to avoid paying vulnerable workers a fair rate for the job,” said Unite regional officer, Rick Coyle. “The sense of injustice is so strong it risks bringing Argos and Adecco into disrepute. Strife at Argos will continue until this vital issue is resolved.”

The so-called ‘Swedish Derogation’ is a loophole in the pay parity aspects of the new Agency Worker Regulations.

Unite said that the 200 workers who refuse to sign the ‘derogation’ contract will be ‘given help to find another job’. Workers had been expecting a pay rise on 24 December of about £3-an-hour. Instead, they have been told to accept a contract that states they agree to not getting any extra money, or be sacked on Thursday (22 December).

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