Harrods looks set to be the first UK business to take advantage of controversial new legislation by replacing their staff on strike with temporary agency workers. The threat comes as around 150 staff ballot for strike action over ‘pay cut disguised as a rise’
A letter sent on 8th August to staff working in store services, engineering, maintenance and security, states: “Recent legislative changes relating to the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulations now allows agencies to provide temporary workers to perform duties normally performed by a worker who is on strike. We are therefore no longer restricted from engaging temporary workers should any industrial action take place now or in the future.”
Harrods said calling in temporary workers was not its preferred course of action, but it was vital that the department store continued to provide “exceptional” customer service.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said:
“It comes as no surprise that Harrods – known for catering to the supremely well-off – could be the first employer Unite has come across to threaten low paid staff with the recent government legislation designed to break strikes. Harrod’s attempts to use this new legislation to bully our members doesn’t change a thing. Unite is prepared for all eventualities and our members at Harrods will receive the full backing of the union in their fight for a fair pay rise.”
If strike action goes ahead, there will be a picket line outside of Harrod’s – which temporary workers providing cover may need to cross. This puts temps into a volatile and uncomfortable situation, and it may be difficult for agencies to persuade temps to provide the cover Harrods is seeking. In addition, it is possible that recruitment agencies may choose to decline the opportunity to provide temps given the widespread criticism of agencies in the P&O situation earlier this year.
The new legislation was introduced last month by the government seeking to minimise the impact of industrial action, but controversially the new law is accused of not being legal itself! Whatever way you choose to look at it, the legislation erodes the rights of workers who are striking, and it puts temporary workers into a very difficult situation.