Retailer’s council illegal, says union

Retail group Arcadia is locked in a dispute with British and Irish trade
unions over the setting up of an employee works council.

Retail union Usdaw, backed by its Irish counterpart Mandate, claims the
company failed to consult with employee bodies and does not have elected representatives,
as required by law.

Arcadia employs about 32,000 in Britain and Ireland and includes high street
shops such as Burtons, Dorothy Perkins and Top Shop.

Under the law an employer has to establish a works council if it has 1,000
or more staff including at least 150 in another European country, and there is
a request for a council from employees. Britain’s opt-out of the legislation
ended on January 15, which means that Arcadia came under the scope of the law.

Arcadia claims its forum qualifies as a voluntary works council because it
was established in early December. Under the law a voluntary arrangement
qualifies but there was a deadline of 15 December to set one up.

Usdaw said it heard about the forum accidentally, and not until the middle
of February.

"Our first reaction was that we did not like it, that it did not fulfil
the requirements and that we wanted to talk to them further about it. We have
not had a response," said national officer at Usdaw Terry Savage.

A spokeswoman for Arcadia denied that representatives were appointed by
management, saying they were volunteers. Its formation was announced in De-
cember in the staff magazine.

"Less than 4 per cent of staff are represented by Usdaw," she
said. "We have regular meetings with Usdaw, so we did not feel there was a
need to duplicate this by having their attendance on the works council."

By Philip Whiteley

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