Asda avoids strike


A planned strike by thousands of workers employed by supermarket chain Asda has been called off after union leaders reached a last minute deal with the retailer over union recognition.

Staff at 20 Asda distribution depots across the UK had been due to begin five days of industrial action today, with the planned strike threatening to disrupt supplies during the height of the World Cup tournament.

But following last ditch talks Asda and the GMB union yesterday reached a settlement, which came shortly before the retailer was due in the high court to seek an injunction to block the strike.

The GMB had said that union members at the Asda depots voted by three to one in favour of the industrial action, which centred on demands for the introduction of national collective bargaining rights at all 24 of Asda's distribution centres.

The Asda workers were also involved in a long-running dispute with the supermarket over pay and health and safety, with the strike threatening to become the most significant industrial action involving a leading supermarket for many years.

Asda, owned by US grocery giant Wal-Mart, had planned to take legal action against the strike after claiming that there had been "serious flaws" with the GMB ballot.

But the GMB yesterday announced its decision to call off the five-day strike after "lengthy consideration" of an agreement made with Asda.

Under the terms of the deal a joint council will be established to deal with issues of concern to both Asda and GMB members in relation to the supermarket's distribution depots.

Welcoming the agreement, GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said: "This new agreement which GMB and Asda Wal-Mart have worked very hard to achieve heralds a new fresh approach to representation and bargaining between the company and GMB.

"It is the clear intention of this new agreement that issues beneficial to the growth of the company and the economic benefit of its employees will be dealt with through the new National Joint Council."

David Cheesewright, chief operating officer at Asda, said: "We're pleased to have signed an agreement acceptable to both sides to end the current dispute - good news for our customers and colleagues alike."

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