Warehouses at war: Has Covid-19 transported industrial relations to the 1970s?

Raised fist

When Britain went into lockdown at the end of March and the shutters were drawn down on almost all shops, many retailers were left reliant on a single trading lifeline – their online operations.

Attention switched from stores to distribution centres and the staff there replaced their shopfloor counterparts on the consumer frontline.

Even though, as Next chief executive Lord Wolfson was early to point out, demand was likely to be low for some non-essential products, retailers were desperate to take sales where they could online.

But the wider disruption brought by coronavirus was accompanied by unrest in many distribution centres as unions representing workers confronted management over health and safety measures in place during the pandemic.

Retailers ranging from AmazonAsos and Boohoo to JD Sports and Marks & Spencer all found themselves in the line of fire.


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