The possibility of an Asda strike has moved closer after thousands of the supermarket’s distribution staff voted to reject the latest pay offer.
The GMB union revealed that an overwhelming majority – almost 70% – of the 8,000 members polled had voted against accepting the offer, which was below the level of inflation.
At the same time, almost 80% of Asda’s warehouse, clerical workers and LGV drivers said they were prepared to take industrial action over pay. The GMB union will now meet with members to discuss next steps, which are likely to include further meetings between Asda, the GMB and the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACA).
The ballot began earlier this month after the supermarket giant offered a base rate increase to warehouse and clerical staff (from 4.98% to 6.10%) and transport staff (6.49% to 7.53%).
Before Christmas, 94% of GMB members indicated they were prepared to take strike action after the supermarket turned down the opportunity to make “a meaningful pay offer”.
Asda has strongly denied it has forced its staff to resort to food banks and payday lenders, stating that the pay rise is equivalent to 7.35%, spread over two years. Chief people officer Hayley Tatum defended the move, saying that Asda values the work of its instore employees.
“We value the key role our colleagues play to keep our stores well-stocked and we have negotiated in good faith with the GMB to make a fair, competitive and sustainable pay offer that recognises rising inflation,” said Asda’s VP of logistics, John Parry.
“We are disappointed this has been rejected and we expect the GMB to honour the National Recognition Agreement, signed by both parties in 2012, as this provides an agreed framework to resolve outstanding matters.”
However, the GMB union claims Asda owners, the Issa brothers, have failed to credit soaring inflation and the importance of the key workers amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The UK is facing the worst cost of living crisis for a generation,” said GMB’s national officer, Nadine Houghton.
“Inflation is rampant and energy prices are out of control, yet Asda workers are being taken for mugs with below inflation pay offer that basically means a real terms pay cut.
“They’re not going to take it lying down – it’s now up to Asda bosses to come back with a reasonable offer and avert the threat of industrial action.”