Union criticises Asda over plan to increase wages but axe paid breaks


Asda has come under fire from union bosses after proposing changes to employee contracts which will boost pay but cut paid breaks.

The supermarket said the move would simplify terms for hourly paid retail workers by replacing six different contract types with one standardised option.

The proposals would increase the basic hourly rate to £9 per hour for all retail employees, and would still include the benefits of an annual bonus, colleague discount, sharesave and pension.

However staff will also be asked to work more flexible times such as on bank holidays while breaks would no longer be paid.

The GMB Union, which represents Asda employees, has called for the retailer to negotiate the contracts.

“These contract changes will affect nearly 60,000 members of staff, they cannot just be imposed from the top,” said Gary Carter, GMB national officer.

“We expect Asda to negotiate. If they want to roll out the new contract they must listen to employees and sit down with GMB to discuss beneficial improvements to terms and conditions which have the support of the workforce.”

Asda said the changes would bring it in line with industry standards.

Anthony Hemmerdinger, Asda’s senior vice president for operations, said: “As our customers continue to change the way they shop with us, we also have to be prepared to change to meet their needs and a key part of delivering great service is having the right colleagues in the right place at the right time, which is what this contract aims to achieve.”

Workers are already able to move to a higher-paid contract which requires working flexible hours on a voluntary basis.

Since its introduction in 2017, 50,000 employees have selected this option.

But GMB said that nearly 60% had not chosen to move to the contract.

Asda has now entered into a consultation on the proposals, which could see the contracts take effect in late 2019 if pushed forward.

It comes after Asda’s prospective merger partner Sainsbury’s made similar changes to its contracts last year, eliminating paid breaks but upping the base level of pay.

The tie-up between the supermarkets is hanging in the balance after the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) provisional findings into the deal warned it could be blocked unless they sell off significant stores.

The retailers have offered to sell up to 150 stores as part of efforts to address competition concerns.

The CMA is expected to publish Sainsbury’s and Asda’s responses to its provisional findings imminently, and the anti-trust body’s final report is expected by April 30.