Thousands of staff employed at Asda distribution depots are to stage a five-day strike over pay and bargaining, the GMB union announced yesterday.
The strike, which will begin on June 30th and threatens to disrupt supplies during the height of the World Cup tournament, was set after GMB members at the depots voted by three to one in favour of industrial action.
Warehouse staff and drivers will take part in the strike at Asda's 20 UK distribution centres, which supply the supermarket chain's 300 stores across the country.
In a statement the retailer said that it would "work hard" to ensure that customers were unaffected by the strike and stressed that it expected most of its depot staff to turn up for work as usual.
"Two-thirds of our depot workers are not GMB members and we expect most of them to come to work," said a spokesperson for Asda, who added that the company had been working on contingency plans for "some time".
The strike action centres around GMB demands for the supermarket to allow for the introduction of national collective bargaining rights at all the retailer's distribution depots.
US grocery giant Wal-Mart, which owns the supermarket chain, has long resisted efforts to unionise its American workforce, claiming that local collective bargaining already takes place in nine of its UK depots.
GMB members employed at the depots also claim that the company had failed to pay them last year's annual bonus and want the supermarket to halt the introduction of new technology which they allege is leading to higher work rates and could affect their health in the long term.
In a statement, GMB national secretary Phil Davies said: "This decision today to set a comprehensive programme of industrial action starting with the five days stoppage shows that GMB members are determined to win national collective bargaining rights which are common across British industry."
"There appears to be a clear clash of cultures between the way workers do business in Britain and the way Wal-Mart does business," he added.
"GMB members in Asda Wal-Mart want independence from the anti-trade union tactics of Wal-Mart worldwide."