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Gavin Miller
Job title
National Officer
Following an 8-and-a-half-year campaign culminating in a workplace ballot through the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC), Community just last week (Monday 3 June) won recognition for warehouse workers at Euro Car Parts Tamworth T1 and T2 sites. 

Euro Car Parts is a distributor of car parts and accessories, with around 200 locations in Europe. Its headquarters are in Tamworth in Staffordshire. Community National Officer for Light Industries, Gavin Miller, spoke to the TUC about the win. 

The campaign begins 

Gavin told the TUC: “This campaign started back in 2016, when we had an enquiry from a migrant worker about some of the working conditions at Euro Car Parts. 

“A bit of investigation found a number of poor practices at the company, who weren’t following the rules as they should have been. 

“As a result, a few of the workers joined the union and we represented them in meetings with management.” 

Over the next three years the union membership continued to grow as word of mouth spread, and by 2019 Community had around 120 members at the site. 

Gavin told the TUC that the membership then became fairly static as Community was limited in how they could attempt to grow the membership further. 

He said: “We were hampered in what we could do as the building was on a private trading estate with private security. So, we would try and go in and leaflet, but we’d be sent packing by security. That only left us with word of mouth or the option of written comms – which wasn’t the best way to reach a predominantly migrant workforce.” 

Application for recognition 

In 2021, Community made an application to the CAC for union recognition. 

For this application to be successful, they needed either 51% union membership (for the 700 to 800 staff) or to be awarded a workplace ballot. 

Gavin said: “At this point around one in five (18%) of the workers were in the union. And 37% of them signed the petition for a workplace ballot. We thought we would be successful and have our claim accepted – but it was rejected at the last stage. 

“This was a bitter blow, and we were really disheartened. 

“There wasn’t a lot we could do to try and raise membership as we were into the Covid-19 pandemic and many staff were on furlough, so it was even harder to get to the workers.” 

Over the next couple of years, the union membership remained steady, and workers were still being represented by Community, and were getting wins. And the company built a new £100 million warehouse, so workers were now spread across two sites. 

By 2023, there were a few union activists working at Euro Car Parts, and one contacted Gavin to ask if they could press for official union recognition again. 

Gavin told him that he’d need to get a petition together – he passed the paperwork on, and within a week the activist had collected a whopping 400 signatures – over half the workforce. 

Word got back to management that this was happening when a night shift manager confiscated a workers’ petition, and signatures started to slow down. 

A second application 

Gavin met with the company in October and asked management about voluntary recognition – he told the TUC: “Unfortunately it was clear that they didn’t want to break bread with us voluntarily. 

“So, we made a second application to the CAC. This time we had 56% of staff signing the petition for a ballot. 


“We lobbied for an in-person ballot rather than a postal one, as we felt this would be more successful given that a migrant workforce often rents and has to move house more regularly, we didn’t feel the company had the most up-to-date address details for the workforce.  

“However, the company insisted there would be a productivity issue if the vote was held in person and said they had the correct details for every single member of staff. 

“We genuinely didn’t believe this was the case – but the CAC trust they're being given the right information, and so they decided we would have a postal ballot.” 

Talking to workers 

Gavin continued: “The next step was negotiating with the employer to go in and see the entire bargaining unit – which at that time was 761 workers – to talk to them about the ballot. 

“We didn’t want to be hidden away in an office where we wouldn’t be able to see anyone. It was important we could talk to every worker to inform them of the opportunity, and what was at stake. 

“Management initially agreed to office access followed by attendance at a ‘town hall’ meeting that would be limited to 10 minutes as the meeting had a strict time limit of 20 minutes for productivity reasons.  The plan was that all workers would attend these meetings as they were compulsory.  

“But that’s not quite how it all progressed... Management then said attendance was voluntary and that there was one meeting that was filmed and people from other shifts could watch the meeting if they wanted to with no obligation to do so. 

“So, we made our pitch in 8 and a half minutes, 90 seconds under the agreed 10-minute limit – then the company spent 35 minutes briefing the staff and reinforcing their view against union recognition. 

“This was frustrating – but we couldn’t complain to the CAC as they have no jurisdiction over the ‘access’ part of the ballot.” 

"We upped our game” 

Gavin continued: “In some ways these tactics by the employer actually helped us. 

“We knew we had to reach every worker and so we had to think more widely about what we had to do – and we upped our game. 

“The ballot is conducted by a Qualified Independent Person – a QIP. And the QIP has all the staff’s details. Over a 10-day period, Community paid for the QUIP to send out 4 mailings to all the workers that we needed to reach. 

Gavin said the cleverest tactic Community employed was setting up a What's App community channel that people opted-in to join and where you can’t see individuals contact details.



He said: “We had around 250 people join the channel, and that was great for giving out information. Those people also forwarded messages and information to other workplace what's app groups they were in, like the football team group. It meant word got around everyone very quickly. 

“The What’s App group also helped us rebuff some of the incorrect information managers were passing to staff during the campaign. We could put out rebuttals saying things like ‘We’ve heard managers have told you that part-time workers don’t get a vote in the ballot – that's not true, everyone gets a say’ and so on. 

“We got much better levels of interaction this way too. People weren’t really responding to emails in high volumes.” 

Time to vote 

The time to vote in the postal ballot drew near. CAC require a 40% turnout for the ballot to be approved. 

Gavin said: “Management were distributing memos asking people to vote ‘no’ in the ballot – but they wouldn’t hand out our memos ‘for sustainability reasons’. 

“But despite this, when the ballot closed (on Monday 3 June) we secured a 46.5% turnout. 

“We needed 304 votes in total – but there were 370 votes returned. 357 of them (96.5%) voted yes; there were 11 no votes, and 2 spoiled ballots. 

“The QIP commented on the number of errors in the company’s record keeping as so many of the addresses were wrong – when the employer had assured the CAC all their address records were accurate.” 

The future 

Gavin explained what the ballot result means for staff at Euro Car Parts. 

He said: “This fantastic ballot result has been a long time coming – and it means that going forward we will be able to elect and train a workplace rep committee. 

“That means we can campaign for better pay and terms and conditions on behalf of the entire warehouse workforce. 

“So far, we’ve won round one by getting the ballot over the line. 

“Next, the CAC will issue the instruction for a recognition agreement at Euro Car Parts – and that will be rounds two and three. 

“Round two will be negotiating the terms of the agreement – and round three will be changing the mindset of the company that they’ve now got to work constructively with the unions to ensure our members get a decent deal at work.” 

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