PROTESTS have taken place across Britain outside some of shoemaker Clarks' retail stores in support of workers in Street who are currently taking industrial action due to 'fire and rehire' tactics.

Workers at the shoe giant's Westway distribution centre, in Street, went out on strike last week after talks over fire-and-rehire failed to reach a resolution.

A total of 88% of staff voted in favour of the action, which came in reponse to what unions said are a reduction of terms and conditions targeted at legacy members of staff, who were employees before Lion Rock became majority shareholder in March 2021.

The company pushed for their employees to accept far-reaching reduced conditions, with everything from a reduction in hourly wage, sick pay and annual holidays, to a removal of 10-minute coffee breaks and complimentary hot drinks.

The firm says the move is to 'achieve sustainable employment costs' and to bring 'fairness' between workers who currently receive different rates of pay.

However, hundreds of people across Britain have now begun protesting in solidarity with the workers, with protests taking place in Glasgow, Cardiff, Sheffield, Liverpool and Hartlepool, among others.

A petition supporting the workers and calling for an end to fire-and-rehire has currently received more than 7,000 signatures, as well as drawing support from leading politicians such as Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, and Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar.

Roy Rickhuss CBE, General Secretary of the Community trade union which represents many of the workers, said: "The demonstration of solidarity has been incredibly heartening to the workers of Clarks, some of whom are facing severe financial difficulties or even homelessness due to the changes the company are attempting to force upon them.

"We’re very clear that no worker should be exposed to the scandal of fire-and-rehire. 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. And we urge government to step in and outlaw this practice once and for all."

Somerset County Gazette:
Anas Sarwar at a Clarks protest in Glasgow

Anas Sarwar, leader of the Scottish Labour Party, says: “I want to send my absolute solidarity to the workers of Clarks. It is a scandal that a venture capital firm can arrive and reduce the terms of workers, including some who have been there for decades.

"From Sutherland to Somerset, no worker should be exposed to the scandal of fire-and-rehire and a Labour government would end this behaviour by unscrupulous bosses.

"But action can be taken now. That is why I’m calling on all of Scotland’s political leaders, to stand with Clarks workers and demand that this callous Tory government outlaw this shameful practice once and for all.”

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.

READ MORE: Support for workers on strike at Clarks in Street

"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."

Somerset County Gazette:
Clarks staff outside the Street depot