The union Community has stated they are investigating “wrongdoing” after Clarks allegedly utilised agency workers to cover a strike.

Clarks, a shoe retailer, has come under fire after allegedly covering a strike using agency workers.

Staff in a Clarks warehouse in Somerset began the strike in October after the company announced a fire and rehire policy with staff claiming this would leave them with “worse money and conditions”.

A spokesperson for the company explained Clarks’ decision:

Westway [in Somerset] has a two-tier workforce with staff doing the same jobs working side by side on different rates of pay and terms.

Those employed many years ago have significantly better terms than their colleagues which is unsustainable for us.

However, Community have since reported one particular instance to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), stating the agency worker was hired as a general worker but was seen driving a forklift – a duty typically carried out by a Clarks worker on strike.

Under the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003, companies are not allowed to hire temporary workers to perform duties normally carried out by workers on strike.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Clarks denied this, stating:

Right throughout this period of industrial action, Clarks has been acting according to the law. Clarks is not using agency workers to cover employees who are on strike.

Clarks continues to be in regular communication with Community and since the start Clarks has offered to make details of agency worker numbers available to them to provide reassurance.

However, Community has maintained it will “[continue] to investigate further wrongdoing and will appeal this with the relevant agencies wherever it may be found.”

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, commented on the case:

Using agency workers to break a strike is illegal.

No client of a recruitment agency should be asking them to break the law by supplying workers for this purpose.

Agencies should be careful to do their due diligence as they always would, and the REC’s legal services are available to help members if they have suspicions.

But ultimately it is the client’s responsibility to ensure they and the agency workers they engage are not breaking the law.