UK – Harrods threatens to become first major employer to use agency staff to replace strikers (City AM)

August 17, 2022

Luxury department store Harrods has threatened to take advantage of new UK laws allowing it to break strikes by using temporary workers, reports AM City Harrods has told its staff it is willing to use temporary workers to keep its store in business after workers at the Knightsbridge store threatened to strike over wage negotiations. The store said it would use new laws, introduced last month, that allow businesses to bring in temporary staff to replace striking workers.

Harrods is owned by the Qatar Investment Authority.

In a letter to its employees, Harrods said the new laws meant it was “no longer prohibited from hiring temporary workers if industrial action took place now or in the future”. The warning comes as 150 Harrods workers represented by the Unite union are set to vote on strike plans after rejecting the department store’s 5% pay rise offer. A Harrods spokesman said it was ‘hugely disappointing’ that Unite had opened a strike ballot as it urged the union ‘to work with us to ensure this is quickly resolved for the benefit of all our hardworking and dedicated colleagues”. The department store spokesperson added that it is “vital” that the store continues to provide “outstanding customer service” by ensuring it is “properly staffed at all times”.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation responded to Harrod’s letter. Shazia Ejaz, campaigns director at REC, said the priority “should always be to negotiate” as she warned that “inserting agency workers into strikes will only lengthen these disputes”. “Agency workers are in high demand, and most won’t choose a job that requires them to cross a picket line over one that doesn’t,” Ejaz said. “It also puts agencies and agency workers at the heart of the dispute, with potential health, safety and reputational risks to consider.”