Thousands of temporary workers in the food industry will now receive pay equal to that of permanent staff under a deal agreed between Asda and Unite union.
Asda, the UK’s second-largest supermarket, has added pressure on other food retailers to follow suit by urging that suppliers pay agency workers the same rate as permanent employees, before a European directive that takes effect late next year.
Unite said 6,000 workers, who were mostly migrants, would win improved pay under the agreement, which covers 29 suppliers.
Asda will now liaise with the suppliers, agencies that provide migrant workers and unions to raise the £2.4m needed to ensure that temporary workers were on the same rates as their permanent colleagues, the Times has reported.
Unite said the pay gap led to tensions in communities as permanent staff accused migrants of bringing down wages, while temporary workers felt aggrieved that they were underpaid for doing the same job as colleagues with contracts.
An Asda spokesman said: “Following our own investigation into working conditions in the meat sector, we agreed with Unite that agency workers who do the same work as permanent workers should receive equal pay, and that agency work should not be used as a means of preventing them from accessing the same rights as permanent workers.
“As a result, we brought all our suppliers together as a group and presented both Unite’s findings and the results of our own investigation.”
Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of Unite, said of the announcement: “It sends a clear message that one of Britain’s biggest supermarkets is determined to put ethical principles into practice. For years, tens of thousands of workers have paid the price of discriminatory and unfair practices and poorer conditions of employment.”
The move by Asda comes ahead of a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission inquiry into discrimination in the meat and poultry sector.