UK shoppers breathe easier after pay deal averts trucker strike

A Christmas season strike by truckers hauling merchandise for retail giant Argos, which operates in the U.K. and Ireland, has been called off. Yard and highway drivers employed by UPS at Argos’ flagship distribution center at Barton in Staffordshire, England, secured a pay hike deal worth about 4.5%, according to a Dec. 12 announcement from trade union Unite.

More than 40 Unite members, representing 90% of workers who maneuver loads around the distribution center, voted in favor of the pay deal from UPS management, following talks with arbitration service Acas.

Work will continue over the holiday period at the distribution center, with back pay and the agreed increase set to be paid before Christmas.

Workers warned of a 15-day strike following a 10-month wage dispute if a deal could not be reached. The strike was set to start late Dec. 17 and continue through year’s end.

The union warned that the proposed job action would effectively grind operations to a halt, causing severe disruption to Argos at its busiest time of the year.

Argos is a major player in the retail sector with more than 883 retail shops, 29 million shop customers yearly and nearly 1 billion online visitors annually. The Barton site is a critical hub in Argos’ national network and the location from which all high-end electrical items, including smartphones, laptops and televisions, are shipped to regional Argos distribution centers for delivery to stores.