A planned five-day strike by Asda warehouse staff has been called off, unions have confirmed.
The action was due to begin tomorrow after thousands of workers voted for industrial action in a dispute about pay and bargaining rights.
The decision followed prolonged negotiations between unions and the supermarket chain.
Asda had been due to go to the high court this morning in a bid to prevent a strike by its depot workers.
Asda claimed there had been “serious flaws” in the GMB ballot of workers that approved the strike.
Asda, , has been embroiled in a bitter dispute with the GMB about collective bargaining, pay and alleged union-busting activity for some time.
Following discussions between Asda – owned by the famously anti-union US retail group Wal-Mart – and the GMB, facilitated by TUC general secretary Brendan Barber, the following proposals were agreed:
A new national joint council (NJC) is to be established to deal with a range of issues of mutual concern and interest in relation to Asda’s distribution depots.
Meetings of the company and the union will take place at the most senior level at least twice a year to review major strategic issues facing the company.
Negotiations at local level will take place on the modernisation of the existing collective bargaining agreements in nine depots.
The GMB will be given access to all Asda distribution sites (current and future), with facilities for appropriate levels of union workplace representatives, facilities to distribute union literature, recruit into the union, present the union case during company induction procedures, and run union election procedures for workplace representatives.
In relation to two sites in which Asda/GMB partnership agreements currently operate (Chepstow and Erith), the company has agreed to negotiate with the GMB through the NJC as a first priority on a model collective bargaining agreement for these and, potentially, other sites.
Asda has confirmed to the GMB that it has no principled objection to collective bargaining provided it is subject to the free and informed choice of employees.
The deal also commits both sides to working together to rebuild relations, restore trust, and conduct relations in a non-adversarial way.
Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB, 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.”