'Disgrace': Empty-shelf warning with Asda workers to vote on pay-related strike action

Asda bosses in the district are being warned that shelves could be left bare in the new year as drivers and warehouse workers threaten to strike over pay.

By Nick Frame
Wednesday, 8th December 2021, 1:53 pm
The depot in Normanton.
The depot in Normanton.

Workers at the distribution centres in South Elmsall and Normanton, along with delivery drivers, are furious that the company has announced a pay freeze.

Compounding the matter, they have also accused the supermarket giant of delaying their decision to avoid industrial action being taken over the busy Christmas period.

One driver, who did not want to be named told the Express: "Morale is very low and people are just very angry about it.

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The depot on Elmsall Way in South Elmsall.

"People are leaving left right and centre because we are the worst-paid drivers, and everyone knows there's a shortage of drivers but they just don't seem to acknowledge that."

He said that through their trade union, the GMB, they had asked for £4 an hour more for drivers, and £2 an hour more for warehouse workers.

They expected a compromise, but said they were shocked when they were told they would receive nothing.

However, they were equally as angry with the timing of Asda's announcement.

The driver said: "We had been expecting an answer on November 29 or 30, but it never came. People are saying that they did that to make sure there wasn't enough time to vote to strike before Christmas.

"This is their 'golden quarter' at the moment, when they make the most money."

He said that should they vote for strike action, it would mean deliveries to the supermarkets would stop while they down tools, leaving major supply problems.

With Asda having 40,000 GMB union members, it would cause problems all across the country.

The GMB has labelled the situation "a disgrace", questioning how Asda are unable to offer a pay rise despite turning a £486 million profit.

They said that last year the company's directors pocketed £12.6 million in pay and share-based payments, a massive 30 per cent increase on the previous 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 £500 million.

"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 £10 million 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.”

The ballot closes on December 20.

In response, an Asda spokesperson said: “The GMB has recently made an additional pay claim on top of a two-year deal which was agreed with them in May.

"As our annual pay negotiations have just begun and discussions are ongoing, any talk of industrial action is premature."