Clarks’ workers consider strike action over fire-and-rehire attacks

The entirety of shoemaker Clarks’ operations in Street, Somerset, including headquarters and warehouse staff, could strike over ‘dramatic’ fire and rehire attacks, Unite has warned.

Unite, which represents around 200 Clarks headquarters staff, said its members are considering strike action after being told they will be ‘fired’ from their old employment contracts and ‘rehired’ onto new inferior ones.

More than 100 Clarks warehouse staff, who are members of the Community, as well as a smaller amount of warehouse staff who are members of Unite, are also considering strike action over similar proposals.

Unite said that it will work with Community to stop the fire and rehire attacks, including coordinating any potential strike action.

Under the proposals put forward by Clarks, which was taken over by Hong Kong-based private equity firm LionRock Capital earlier this year, Unite members would see reductions in overtime rates, sick pay, parental leave, redundancy packages and call out pay.

Unite regional officer Gareth Lowe said: “Our members are rightly angry at the employer’s threats to fire and rehire which will cause a dramatic fall in their terms and conditions. The strength of feeling amongst staff is such that Unite will hold a consultative ballot over whether to take strike action.

“Unite will work alongside Community to fight these attacks and Clarks should be aware that if strike action is coordinated the company’s entire operations in Street will come to a halt. We urge Clarks to drop its unnecessary plans to hack at the terms and conditions of its loyal and dedicated staff.”

Unite has endorsed Labour MP Barry Gardiner’s private members bill to outlaw fire and rehire, which he presented to parliament in June.

Unite assistant general secretary for politics and legal Howard Beckett said: “It’s quite clear that the public is firmly on the side of working people when it comes to the horrific practice of fire and rehire. There is no grey area here. They see that this is an objectionable practice that should be banned. The government has to get on the same page as the voters on this – and fast.”

Community assistant general secretary John Paul McHugh said: “We are incredibly disappointed by the actions of Clarks, and for both their workers and their customers we strongly urge them to come back around the table and reach a solution.

“Clarks is a staple brand on the British high street, with a history dating back over a century. Many children will be able to remember being taken to Clarks for their school shoes. Their customers have frequently rewarded them with loyalty.

“So too have their workforce. The workers most adversely impacted by these changes are those who have been employees for decades, sticking with the company through thick and thin, stepping up in the last year during the challenging pandemic period.

“Fire-and-rehire is no way to thank your employees or your customers. We ask Clarks to call off the diminishing of terms and conditions and say that we are ready and waiting for productive discussions on how we can succeed together going forward when they are.”

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