Clarks Somerset site strike ends after agreement reached

Clarks has reached an agreement with about 100 workers to end a two-month strike at its distribution centre in Somerset.

The deal between the footwear group and the Community union, which follows mediation with Acas, is understood to protect hourly pay for established workers and increase pay for new staff at the site.

Staff at the warehouse have been on strike since 4 October as they said the shoemaker was seeking to cut their wages by almost 15% to £9.50 an hour by using controversial fire and rehire tactics.

The changes were implemented after Clarks was taken over by a Hong Kong-based private equity firm, LionRock Capital and former Chinese Olympian Li Ning, in March.

The deal pumped £100m in new cash into the near 200-year-old British footwear institution, which is still co-owned by the descendants of its founders – Quaker brothers Cyrus and James Clark.

In a joint statement, Community and Clarks said: “We are pleased that a resolution has been reached that works in everybody’s interests, protects Community members’ livelihoods, and recognises their loyalty to Clarks.

“Following an indicative ballot of Community members it is confirmed that normal working has now resumed.”

The two sides said they were looking forward to “close cooperation as we move on from the dispute and commit to positive industrial relations in the future”.

The deal is a positive step forward for Clarks, which is currently seeking a new chief executive who will be its seventh boss in as many years.

LionRock is trying to deliver a turnaround at the group where sales dropped 43% to £775m in the year to 30 January as the group sank £172m into the red from a £21.5m profit a year before.

While many clothing and footwear firms suffered during the first part of the pandemic, Clarks’ troubles date back some time. The company’s market share has halved in six years to 4% as it has lost its position as the UK’s biggest footwear retailer to third place behind JD Sports and Sports Direct.


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