Leeds Asda workers march on company HQ in protest against 'brutal' contract changes

Asda workers delivered a 23,000-strong petition to the company's headquarters in Leeds in protest against 'brutal' contract changes.

Wednesday, 31st December 1969, 11:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 17th October 2019, 8:13 am

Hundreds of Asda workers, supported by the GMB, marched through Leeds city centre to protest against the 'flexible' Contract 6, which will see employees lose all their paid breaks and forced to work bank holidays.

Asda has said no one is being forced to sign the contract - but workers disagree.

Gary Carter, GMB national officer, said: “Workers who have given years or loyal service are being told ‘sign this brutal contract or get the sack in time for Christmas’."

The protest makes its way down Mill Hill.

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The march, attended by workers from across the country, follows similar demonstrations in May and August.

Contract 6, which was introduced in 2017, means workers are forced to be flexible at short notice about when and what times they work.

The GMB has said it will mean staff choosing between carrying for vulnerable relatives or losing their jobs.

Many staff from the Asda Morley Superstore were present, but wanted to stay anonymous for fear of repercussions.

Asda workers say their rights will be eroded under the new contract.

One said: "It is putting enormous power into the hands of management. It's a big step towards US-style 'at will' employment."

Another man said the impact on the store is already being felt - with staff shortages forcing managers to work on the hills

"Loads of staff are wanting to leave [because of Contract 6]," he said.

"I've been forced to sign it and I'm disabled. I'm chewed off. They are using threatening tactics, bullying people.

There were heated scenes as protesters were stopped from entering the Asda House forecourt.

"The atmosphere is terrible. People want to leave, they are looking for other jobs."

The march started at City Square just after midday, making its way to Asda House on Great Wilson Street.

One person was allowed to deliver the petition to the company's front door, but all other protesters were barred from entering the forecourt by police and security officers.

Jon Smith, GMB regional officer for Yorkshire and North Derbyshire, said the company had sent letters to staff who have not signed telling them how to apply for other jobs outside the company.

Marchers, pictured setting off in City Square, were joined by GMB general secretary Tim Roache.

"I think it was a final push for them to force people - scare tactics - into signing these new contracts," he said.

"The chief executive (Roger Burnley) said in a letter that staff are not being forced onto the contracts.

"I'm not sure how he can state then when members that are here today have a choice of signing the contract or losing their jobs.

"They have said that if you haven't signed by midnight on November 2, don't come in on the third."

Mr Smith said the union still wanted Asda back at the table to negotiate.

One woman who has worked at the store Morley store for 40 years signed the new contract last year, but now wishes she hasn't as she has seen her working conditions worsen.

"I've got no respect for Asda at all," she said.

An Asda spokesperson said: “The retail sector is immensely competitive and it is important that we are able to serve our customers in the best way to meet their needs.

"This contract is about increasing the take-home pay of more than 100,000 retail colleagues, through an investment of more than £80m, and ensuring that everyone doing the same job is on the same terms and conditions.

“The overwhelming majority of our colleagues from across all our stores have signed onto the new contracts and while we appreciate that some of our colleagues find the changes more unsettling, we do not want any of them to leave.

"We understand colleagues have commitments outside of work and will not be asking them to constantly move the time they work, their days or departments.”