Asda workers to strike

24-08-2006

Representatives from Britain's GMB union will meet today to set dates for strikes at Asda distribution centres after workers employed by the supermarket voted in favour of industrial action.

The GMB said its members at 20 Asda distribution centres backed walkouts by three to one.

Industrial action short of a strike was supported by a four-to-one majority of those who voted, the union added.

It confirmed that 57 per cent of its members had taken part in the ballot, with strikes backed by a majority of 2,209 to 771. Action short of a strike was supported by 2,483 votes to 487.

The vote in favour of strike action involves a pay dispute between Asda and employees at its distribution depots which are located across the UK, including in Bedford, Dartford, Didcot and Falkirk and Bristol.

The GMB also wants the supermarket, owned by US grocery chain Wal-Mart, to allow the union to negotiate nationally on behalf of its members employed at all Asda depots.

Asda's people director David Smith yesterday stressed the supermarket would do everything it "lawfully can" to ensure customers wouldn't be disrupted by the industrial action.

"It makes us really sad the GMB's threatening strike action when there's already a great offer on the table that could lead to collective bargaining at all our depots, if that's what the majority of our colleagues tell us they want," said Mr Smith.

"We simply want to give all our people the chance to decide what type of union agreement, if any, they want at their site, not just the minority that are members of the union," he added.

Responding to the ballot result, GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said the vote showed that it was "time for Asda Wal-Mart to wake up and smell the coffee".

The union also claims that Asda is planning to use staff from an employment agency in the event of a strike and has warned that it could take legal action in such an event.

"Using agency labour during an official trade dispute is illegal and GMB will not allow Asda Wal-Mart to run a coach and horses through UK labour law," said Mr Smith.

"Any attempt by outside agencies to interfere or undermine this lawful industrial action by GMB members will be responded to with full vigour."


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