'OUR members have been left with no other choice but to vote to go on strike.'

The general secretary of the Community union, which represents a number of workers at Somerset-based shoemaker Clarks, has spoken out about impending industrial action at the company's Westway Distribution Centre in the town.

The action, which will see workers walk out on October 4, comes as the company seeks to renegotiate employment terms and conditions with workers, dubbed a 'fire and rehire' scheme by unions.

The change would see workers' contracts changed, including altering rates of pay for some.

If they fail to accept the changes, they would lose their jobs, or they agree to them and are 'rehired'.

Bosses at the firm, which was taken over by LionRock Capital last year, say they are trying to bring all workers' terms and conditions into line.

But Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of Community, the trade union representing some workers at Clarks, said: “We have been incredibly saddened and disappointed by the recent actions of Clarks, and our members have been left with no other choice but to vote to take industrial action and go on strike.

"Clarks is a staple brand on the British high street, with a history dating back over a century. Their roots in their local community go even deeper. There once was a time where Clarks built schools, libraries and theatres for their workers and their families in Somerset.

"Clarks is a company built by, for and with the people of Street. The proud legacy of the company can be found across the town.

"This makes their present day actions, following their recent sale to LionRock Capital, all the more dispiriting.

"Fire-and-rehire is no way to thank your employees or your customers.

"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.

"We urge Clarks to call off the diminishing of terms and conditions and reconsider this move.

"We remain ready and waiting for productive discussions on how we can succeed together going forward when they are.”

READ MORE: Clarks workers vote for industrial action

A Clarks spokesperson said: “At our Westway Distribution Centre we continue to consult with employees on proposed changes to employment terms and conditions for all Operatives.

"It is crucial that Clarks achieves sustainable employment costs, but it is equally fundamental that it achieves fairness between its Distribution Operatives, where differences in hourly rates of pay currently exist.

"As the consultation process is ongoing, we are disappointed that some employees have voted in favour of industrial action.

"Right from the start, Clarks has taken a constructive and collaborative approach, seeking to reach a compromise and avoid the need to terminate contracts on current terms and offer re-engagement on new terms, which the company has always regarded as the very last resort.

"We remain hopeful for a constructive conclusion in due course, based on the significant concessions Clarks has made in respect of its proposal of new terms.

"We can also confirm that the company has contingency plans in place that aim to minimize the impact to our customers as a result of this action."