The GMB said it was launching a consultative ballot – due to close on December 20 – over a pay increase for distribution staff, following in the footsteps of rival chain Tesco
Asda workers are preparing to vote on strike action ahead Christmas after unions accused the chain of refusing to offer a “meaningful” pay rise to workers.
The GMB said it was launching a consultative ballot – due to close on December 20 – over a pay increase for distribution staff, following in the footsteps of rival chain Tesco.
The union said that with inflation rising, the situation was a “kick in the teeth” for its key workers.
The ballot would go to a full vote with any resounding indication of support for strikes. If staff voted in favour, it is unlikely to disrupt trading until next year.
Nadine Houghton, GMB national officer, said: “Asda workers turned up throughout the COVID pandemic risking their lives to keep the nation fed – as well as helping the company turn a profit of almost £500m.
“Staff who saw colleagues lose their lives to COVID are not having their legitimate demands for a pay rise treated seriously.
“Asda now say GMB members’ pay claim is ‘unaffordable’ and yet their hard work and sacrifice helped directors trouser almost £10m between them.
“It’s a disgrace – we urge Asda workers to fight for what they deserve and vote YES for a ballot for industrial action.”
An Asda spokesperson responded: “The GMB has recently made an additional pay claim on top of a two-year deal which was agreed with them in May.
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“As our annual pay negotiations have just begun and discussions are ongoing, any talk of industrial action is premature.
“In addition, we have responded to the driver shortage by offering all of our existing HGV drivers a £1000 one-off discretionary incentive retention payment.”
Tesco workers also voted in favour of strike action this week, with over 6,000 staff at warehouses and distribution centres preparing to walk out from December 20 to Christmas Eve.
Members of the Usdaw and Unite unions at 13 distribution centres backed strikes in protest at the company’s offer of a 4% annual pay increase.
However an employee today told The Mirror Tesco has now tabled a 5.5% rise – a move that unions are likely to back.
That means the strikes are unlikely to press ahead and Christmas shoppers will not face delays on online orders.
It comes after a Mirror investigation revealed staff were told they could lose their annual bonus or be fired if they go on strike as planned later this month.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Our members have gone above and beyond the call of duty to keep Tesco’s shelves filled throughout the pandemic.
“At the very least the UK’s largest and wealthiest retailer should be making our members a decent pay offer.
“Unite always prioritises the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and it will be giving its full and total support to our members at Tesco until this dispute is resolved.”
A Tesco spokesperson said: “Our distribution colleagues have worked tirelessly through the pandemic in order to keep products moving for customers.
“The pay offer we have made is a fair recognition of this, and is one of the highest awards made within our distribution business in the last 25 years, building on our highly competitive pay and rewards package.
“We welcome the decision by our colleagues at the sites who have voted against industrial action.
“We are disappointed that some have voted to proceed, and we have contingency plans in place to help mitigate any impacts.
“We have worked hard to deliver Christmas for our customers and are confident we will be able to fulfil our plans.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.