A row is brewing between Marks & Spencer (M&S) and shop workers’ union Usdaw over the issue of union recognition at the high-street retailer.
The union held a conference last month to listen to staff concerns and is currently running a recruitment and awareness campaign in the North West, with some degree of success.
Usdaw claims that M&S staff are disturbed about changes to working conditions and the effectiveness of the company’s new internal consultation forum.
M&S has a network of Business Involvement Groups (BIGs) in every store that have been set up to represent its employees.
John Gorle, Usdaw national officer, said the early signs indicated that M&S staff would prefer the union to represent them.
“At some point, the company has to start listening to views of its staff. They are voting with their feet and joining Usdaw,” he said.
“People seconded to BIGs may have no real experience of complex employment or contractual law, and we can provide that expertise in the same way we do with other major retailers.”
However, a spokeswoman for M&S rejected the idea that unions might become more involved in the business. “People who already work for and understand M&S are better placed to represent employees’ views than anyone employed by a third party, for example, a trade union,” she said.
Gorle hinted that if the company was unwilling to develop “a constructive relationship” with Usdaw, then it might look at using union recognition legislation.