Argos staff claim to have been ordered to transfer to Argos counters inside Sainsbury’s stores which are open during the coronavirus pandemic – or they will not be paid and may lose their jobs.
Argos employees from at least two South London branches have been given letters by Sainsbury’s, which owns the electrical chain store, to present to their children’s schools which say they are key workers.
The letters say “their role is directly related to the sale and operation of food within our business”.
But the Argos staff say they are not working in the Sainsbury’s section with food or any other essential items.
Instead they say they are being told to work on the Argos counter selling items such as TVs, paddling pools and toasters.
The staff have also been told that if they cannot find childcare arrangements they will not be paid and claim there are no guarantees over future employment.
Argos staff say they feel at risk in the Sainsbury’s stores as staff numbers have increased and they are unable to maintain social distancing.
A relative of a manager of a South London branch of Argos, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “This is totally despicable of such a large company – who clearly are only interested in making a small fortune and not the safety of their staff or members of the public.
“These staff are not key workers. They should not be going there. They are in no way selling essential items and have been told ‘if you do not comply you will not have a job when the big shops open again’.
“The amount of people in the stores means social distancing is impossible. They have been given letters from Sainsbury’s to say they are key workers so they can send their children to school – and put them at risk.
“They don’t work for Sainsbury’s but now that it suits the company, they are calling them Sainsbury’s staff.”
Argos staff claim a meeting took place earlier today where workers were told which stores they would be moving to.
For some it is further away – meaning they have to take longer trips on public transport.
Dave Gill, national officer of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW), said: “With the overwhelming pressure on all food retailers it is inevitable that companies are going to look at redeploying staff within the business.
“However, this is extremely unsettling for staff in what are already difficult and testing times for everyone.
“USDAW is providing our members with support, advice and representation through this process.
“We want to ensure staff get the right hours of work; they are able to get to work if it involves a relocation and that they are no worse off because of the move.”
A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said: “Like many non-food retailers, Argos continues to offer an online delivery service. Customers can also order items for in-store collection while shopping for food and other essential items in some Sainsbury’s stores.
“Many colleagues who have been working in Argos standalone stores are redeploying to Sainsbury’s stores to help feed the nation.
“We continue to protect colleagues and customers through a range of additional safety measures.”