Unite the union has said that it is committed to fight to save as many jobs as possible following the announcement that Argos intends to close its distribution centre in Bridgwater, Somerset and supportive statements have been issued by the Mayor of Bridgwater and the Leader of Bridgwater Town Council, both UNITE members. Unite understands that around 230 jobs are at risk at the site which is now earmarked for closure in 2022 and is seeking urgent meetings with the company at a senior level and will be exploring all avenues to preserve jobs. The union will be demanding to see the business case behind the closure decision, while also exploring if the number of job losses can be reduced or whether affected workers can be redeployed. As Argos, which is now part of the Sainsbury’s group, owns the site, the union will also be exploring if there is the feasibility of it being redesignated for an alternative use, which would also preserve jobs.
Unite regional officer Tim Morris said: “Our members at the Argos Bridgwater distribution centre have continued to work throughout the pandemic and their reward for this dedication is to face losing their jobs. Unite will be holding an urgent meeting with the company to better understand why this announcement has been made. The union will fully engage in the consultation process and will explore all options to preserve as many jobs as possible in Bridgwater or at alternative locations.”
From ‘key workers’ to ‘scrapheap’
Unite national officer Matt Draper said: “This time last year key workers, like our members at Argos, were being lauded for helping keeping the country running. A year later they are being thrown on the scrapheap. Due to our members continuing to work, which risked their health and that of their families, Sainsbury’s has benefitted hugely financially. To now announce that the very same workers face losing their jobs is a slap in the face to a long-serving workforce. This announcement appears to be about boosting Sainsbury’s profits rather than treating its workers fairly and decently.”
Local Labour Concerns
Sedgemoor District Labour Group Leader and UNITE member Cllr Brian Smedley (Bridgwater, Westover) raised the issue with councillors and officers today saying “I was in touch with Sedgemoor’s Economic Development section this morning to ask what measures were being taken to intervene in this situation and I was at least glad to be informed that our employment and skills manager will be making contact today and enquiring about potential support that can be provided. I’m also aware that at a county wide level there is a significant amount of learning been gathered through similar situations such as Oscar Mayer and Debenhams so we will be able to bring this to the fore and use this to provide support as well. However, the question remains why Sedgemoor wasn’t informed well in advance about this and nor was it shown the business case so that it could actively engage at an early stage. It’s imperative that anyone with any influence now fully engage in this consultation process and explore all options for preserving jobs in the Bridgwater area. Either way this is scant reward for working through the pandemic….”
Councillor Leigh Redman, current Mayor of Bridgwater and also a UNITE member and the County Councillor for Bridgwater South, the division that borders the Argos Distribution site, said, “I am really concerned to hear about this. The staff have been amazing during the pandemic, I will be doing whatever I can to support staff, many who live in Bridgwater. Really sad news I was especially shocked to discover that the closure was leaked and many of the employees heard the distressing news via social media, this is a devastating blow to our community. I was lucky enough to work on site many years ago and I have stood on picket lines as workers fought to maintain their conditions. I know that many of the hard working staff have been on site since opening or for a large part of their working lives. I have spoken with officers at Sedgemoor seeking they engage to provide support and advice. I know Unite, the main union on site representing most of the unionised staff, have also expressed dismay and will be fighting hard for the staff. We need to work together to support staff impacted by this decision. The closure of this distribution centre is a sad choice, I will do whatever I can to support staff and will ask you all to be considerate in this time, idle gossip helps no one.”