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Monday, 1 July, 2002, 18:13 GMT 19:13 UK
Sunday roasting for retailer
Argos store
The story has been urged to change staff contracts
Argos has come under pressure to scrap new contracts which require its Scottish staff to work on Sundays.

The retailer said it has done all it can to meet the concerns of its workers but an MP, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the unions have accused it of exploiting a loophole in UK legislation.

Malcolm Savidge, Labour MP for Aberdeen North, said he has received a number of complaints from individual workers and union officials.

Mr Savidge revealed that he plans to raise the issue in an adjournment debate in the House of Commons

Malcolm Savidge
Malcolm Savidge: "Discriminatory measure"
He said: "Argos has decided to use a legal loophole, which can only be applied in Scotland, not anywhere else in Britain, whereby they're threatening their workers with the sack if they won't compulsorily work on Sundays.

"They are discriminating, in particular, against people with family responsibilities or religious objections, but in general against people simply because they live in Scotland."

The head of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Reverend Bruce Cameron, has written to Argos highlighting his "deep concern" about the regulation.

He has asked Terry Duddy, Argos chief executive, to cancel the requirements of the contract.

In the letter to Mr Duddy, the bishop said: "I am deeply concerned by this, not only for those whose religious convictions might be compromised, but also for many people for whom Sunday is a day for the family and the one time of the week when they are able to relax with their children.

Leisure and shopping'

"Neither I nor the church I represent would want to preserve Sunday for religious purposes alone.

"Many of us welcome the wider opportunities offered to people to spend their weekends in leisure and shopping.

"However, it is that very freedom that does seem to be threatened by the action your business is taking in terms of the contracts it is issuing to its employees in Scotland."

Scotland missed out on UK-wide regulation protecting the rights of workers on Sundays first devised in the 1930s and revised several years ago.

Argos worker
The firm said it has taken reasonable steps
One theory was that MPs in the 1930s did not think extra legislation was needed in Scotland, given the country's historic respect for the Sabbath.

A spokeswoman for Argos said other major retailers had already gone through a similar process in Scotland to allow for contracts to be changed to meet the demands of customers for stores to be open on Sundays.

She said: "Some 97% of staff affected have signed up to a variation of contract on a voluntary basis and will be paid enhanced rates as compensation for being required to work just one in four Sundays."

The spokeswoman added that in some cases, including in the Aberdeen store, the frequency of working Sundays may be as little as one in nine.

Last month, leader of the House of Commons Robin Cook said he "deeply regretted" the failure of Argos to follow its Scottish competitors in not compelling staff to work on Sundays.

See also:

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