A tribunal has confirmed that Morrisons staff can continue with a £100 million equal pay claim.
Employment Judge Davies ruled at Leeds Employment Tribunal that more than 2,300 shop floor workers for the supermarket can compare their pay with that of distribution workers.
The mostly female shop floor staff claim they are paid less than the majority male distribution workers, but Morrisons argued that the two roles could not be compared as employment terms are not universal across different sites.
It claims that each Morrisons distribution centre has individual terms based on collective bargaining, and that retail and distribution workers are not employed by the same source.
In her judgment, Judge Davies said: “It is not necessary for the claimants at this stage to specify an RDC [Regional Distribution Centre] to be compared with each supermarket store.
“They rely on comparators working at all the RDCs and the question at this stage is therefore whether a worker from any of the RDCs who moved to a depot at any of the stores would be engaged on broadly similar terms. For the reasons outlined, I find that they would.”
In March, the Supreme Court ruled that the two roles could be considered comparable in a case involving Asda.
And in June, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that Tesco workers could look to European law to determine whether shop floor workers can compare themselves with staff in distribution centres.
Lawyers must now demonstrate whether the roles are of “equal value” and if the supermarket is successful at this second stage, Morrisons must prove that there is a reason other than sex discrimination that the two jobs are not paid the same.
So far, more than 40,000 claimants have made equal pay claims against supermarkets, with law firms encouraging shop floor workers to come forward if they feel they have been underpaid.
Morrisons workers are being represented by law firms Leigh Day and Roscoe Reid.
Emma Satyamurti, a partner in the employment team at Leigh Day, said the firm was “delighted” with the latest decision in the claim.
“This year has been a big one for supermarket equal pay claims, with this judgment following hot off the heels of the Asda Supreme Court ruling and the Tesco CJEU judgment,” she said.
“We hope that this will help Morrisons to recognise the hard work their shop floor staff do and finally pay their staff what they are worth.”
One of Leigh Day’s claimants said they felt shop floor employees were getting close to the “recognition we deserve”.
“You can’t fill the shelves quick enough and then if you’re called to checkout there’s no one on the shop floor to stock the shelves so they’re left empty. Some customers are respectful, and they understand that you’re working your hardest, but others don’t care, and you get abuse because the shelves are empty.
“To put up with all of this and to be paid less than people in the distribution centre doesn’t seem fair. Yes, demand in the distribution centres is high but they don’t have the face-to-face interactions with the customers, they’re not getting the abuse and the confrontation.”