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Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 18:01 GMT
Argos Sunday working climbdown
Argos store
The policy on Sunday working will be reviewed
Retail chain Argos has agreed to review its position on staff's Sunday working in Scotland after criticism over the sacking of 11 women.

The women were sacked for refusing to obey the company's policy on compulsory Sunday working, sparking fierce protests from politicians and unions.

Scottish Secretary Helen Liddle, who met Argos executives to discuss the issue, said that position was now being looked at again and the company was prepared to offer the staff their jobs back.

She said: "I was delighted to hear from Terry Duddy, Chief Executive of Argos, that the company will review its policy on compulsory Sunday working for its Scottish employees.

Helen Liddell
Helen Liddell met Argos executives
"The company stated categorically that they do not and would not compel anyone on an existing contract to work on a Sunday where the employee objected for religious reasons.

"They have agreed that in the case of the 11 workers who have since left the company because of difficulties over Sunday working, Argos Management will now reopen as a matter of urgency negotiations with the unions to examine the particular position of those who may wish to come back to the company under these new arrangements."

The Scottish secretary said the company had approached the matter in a "constructive and forward looking" manner.

Trade unions have accused Argos of exploiting a loophole in Scots law, although the firm has denied breaking the law north of the border.

The unions said the firm was breaking a voluntary agreement which it and a number of other employers entered into when Sunday opening became widespread.

'Breach of trust'

In England and Wales, workers who are dismissed for refusing to work automatically have the option of taking their case to an employment tribunal.

But that legislation does not apply north of the border.

On Tuesday, Aberdeen North MP Malcolm Savidge won the right to introduce a Bill in the Commons to close the loophole.

He said: "This year, in an appalling breach of trust with their staff, Argos decided to exploit the lack of legal protection in Scotland and presented (staff) with an ultimatum - either compulsory Sunday working or the sack."

Despite appeals from MPs, ministers and church representatives, the company had gone ahead with sacking staff and coercing others into Sunday working, he told MPs.

The Bill gained a formal first reading but stands no chance of becoming law due to lack of parliamentary time.

See also:

01 Jul 02 | Scotland
01 May 02 | Business
14 Jan 02 | Business
25 Sep 01 | Business
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