Last Friday, Members of North Somerset CLP took part in a mass display of solidarity for Clarks workers who are being subjected to fire and rehire.

Clarks firm was founded and, until recently, owned by a Quaker family who vowed to treat their workforce with respect. The company has been an important part of the Somerset community and their shoes have been an iconic part of British life for over 200 years. But all that counted for nothing when the family sold out to Lion Rock Capital, a Hong Kong based venture capitalist.

Clarks warehouse workers are now being told that they are to be dismissed and offered their old jobs back with new, much reduced, terms and conditions.  They face:

  1. A reduction in average pay;
  2. An increase in working hours;
  3. No pay rise for at least four years;
  4. Drastic cuts in sick pay;
  5. A drastic reduction in redundancy entitlements;
  6. Cuts to overtime rates;
  7. The abolition of a coffee break.

This is despite the union agreeing to help the company through a ‘difficult financial spell’ by accepting two hours less per week instead of a pay rise on two different occasions, at the company’s proposal.

One of the affected workers explains what this means to them:

“I have been a 100% loyal employee of Clarks for 34 years, never taking a day off sick until 5 weeks ago when I collapsed at work. I am now signed off for work-related stress because the situation has become too much for me; and I am not the only one. Everyone whose job is at risk feels exactly the same – there are some colleagues that may potentially lose their homes as a result of this company’s actions.

Fire/rehire is a terrible thing to do. Breaking our contracts is a disgrace and they should be ashamed; cutting our pay is not going to save this business. We have been told we are paying for the past mistakes of our current bosses’ predecessor – if that is the case then maybe HE should take the pay cut?

All we are guilty of is doing the best job that we could for the last 20 years.

Back in July we had a video meeting with the boss of distribution for the company. I explained about my 34 years of service, and he responded that he doesn’t give a damn about my loyal service, and nor does Clarks.”

Friday’s show of solidarity to the strikers was attended by many people from the South West Labour Movement, including unions (Unite, UNISON, FBU) and CLPs, including a group from North Somerset!  There is a short film here  and a Guardian article here which give more details about the dispute.

What can you do?

Watch this space for updates on any future demonstrations of support for Clarks’ workers!

In the meantime:

  • Please take a second to sign this petition
  • The Clarks workers on the picket line are grateful for any show of support. Things are generally quieter in the afternoons so if you would like to drive down there, get in touch to see if we can arrange a lift-share (the address is Clarks, Westway, Street BS16 OLN).
  • Speak out about fire and rehire. Labour MP Barry Gardiner is presenting the 2nd stage of a private members’ bill against the practice on Friday 22nd October (Employment and Trade Union Rights (Dismissal and Re-engagement) Bill). This Bill is backed by Unite and they have a page of information about it here with a template email to send to your MP.
  • The union’s strike fund is currently covering workers’ pay, but if you’d like to contribute to ensure this continues, please contact us and we’ll forward the details.

If you would like to get involved with any union related matter, please get in touch with Louise Branch, North Somerset CLP Trade Unions Liaison Officer

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