Morrisons could face strike action after the GMB union alleged that the retailer was discriminating against female employees by offering them an inferior redundancy package to male workers.
As part of a post-merger redundancy plan announced in September, up to 175 of the 225 administrators at the former Safeway finance centre in South Shields are losing their jobs, as roles are relocated to Morrisons head office in Bradford.
The employees were told on 4 November that they would receive statutory redundancy pay only, the GMB said.
The union claims the retailer is discriminating against the women as it recently agreed to pay enhanced redundancy to the 2,500, largely male, depot workers who are also losing their jobs in 2006.
Tom Brennan, GMB northern region secretary said: “The takeover of Safeway by Morrisons has been a disaster for former Safeway staff. This sex discrimination is completely unacceptable. Strike action or litigation will follow if the company persists with this plan.”
Morrisons said it would honour contracts that it inherited in the Safeway merger, adding that the GMB union was not recognised at the Crossgate site in South Shields where the women worked.
“As a result of our takeover of Safeway in 2004, we inherited a number of distribution centres, while the finance centre at Crossgate was formerly operated by Hewitts before being brought in-house,” a spokesman said.
“We will fully honour the contracts, agreements, statutes and policies that we inherited from those two companies. Consultation on potential redundancies at our finance centre at Crossgate is being handled by senior management in accordance with good practice and in collaboration with recognised trade union Usdaw.”