Asda denies assault plan on staff working conditions

Supermarket Asda has been accused of planning a “strategic assault” on the working conditions of its staff.

Pressure group War on Want and the GMB union fear management proposals for a major shake-up in staff operations at the Lutterworth distribution centre in Leicestershire will be rolled out nationwide.

They say Asda has drawn up a “Chip Away strategy 2005” aimed at reducing costs and increasing productivity at a time of general falling British retail sales – a claim strenously denied by the company.

According to that strategy, reported in today’s Guardian, the company would like to:

  • Remove the right of staff to take industrial disputes to the arbitration service Acas
  • Implement the use of “single man loading” for jobs that involve lifting, even though Asda’s own risk assessment acknowledges the need for two people to undertake such tasks
  • Encourage supervisors to “take the credence out of breaks” by ending rest times early thereby “leading by example”
  • Remove sick pay for the first three days of absence.

An Asda spokesman said: “We have never discouraged our people from joining unions: in fact we’ve had unions here at Asda ever since we first opened 40 years ago. We have worked with them for many years and will continue to do so.

“Any suggestion that our depot in Lutterworth or any other for that matter has plans to stop involving the GMB is utter nonsense. As David Smith our people director said in Personnel Today just a few weeks ago – we back our colleagues’ right to join a union and we’ve had partnership agreements with the GMB for many years now.

“In fact the depot in Lutterworth has a structured and professional relationship with the GMB that ensures proper consultation at all times and regular meaningful meetings,” he added.

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