Hundreds of Asda workers in Leeds march against 'unfair' new contract

Hundreds of supermarket workers marched on Asda House to protest against a 'punitive' new contract.

Wednesday, 14th August 2019, 4:03 pm
The GMB union organised the protest.

Protesters from across the country stopped in front of Asda House, the company's national headquarters, to shout 'shame on you' and 'no ifs, not buts, no Asda cuts'.

The GMB union, who organised the march, say staff have been told they will be sacked if they do not sign up to the new terms.

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The GMB union organised the protest.

Asda is offering staff a higher wage in exchange for a new deal - called contract 6 - which will introduce unpaid breaks and a requirement to work over bank holidays.

The GMB are particularly concerned about the impact on single mums, workers who have multiple jobs and people with caring responsibilities, as they will have to be more flexible with their hours at shorter notice.

Asda started out as a West Yorkshire family firm and was bought by US retail giant Walmart in 1999.

Protesters shouted 'shame on you' outside Asda House, the company's national headquarters.

Ben Kirkham , a GMB organiser for stores in Killingbeck, Pudsey and Morley, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: "People are angry and upset at the way they are being treated by Asda.

"A lot of the people most affected are the people who have been working for Asda for 25-30 years.

"Two years ago this contract was a voluntary exercise - but now this aggressive takeover of contracts is putting everyone on notice.

"It is causing a lot of heartache for everybody. The flexibility clause is never going to benefit the workers, it's always going to benefit the employer."

Hundreds of marchers from across the country gathered in Leeds to protest against Asda's new contract.

The march started at noon in City Square, where marchers were addressed by Leeds East MP Richard Burgon and GMB General Secretary Tim Roache.

Mr Roache told the crowd: "If GMB was organising Sainsbury's, Tesco or anywhere else where they’re trying to impose these unfair, punitive contracts we’d oppose it there just like here in Asda.

“Asda, you don’t have to race to the bottom, there’s an alternative, there’s a way you can lead rather than follow the industry standards.

“There’s a way you can stand out, stand above it and treat your workers with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

The march started from City Square at noon.

Speaking outside The Tetley, where the protest ended, Mr Burgon told the Yorkshire Evening Post: "Asda is a big, rich company that is taking its workers for granted.

"The contract they are forcing people onto means forcing people to work bank holidays, an end to paid breaks and all for just £9 an hour.

"It's wrong that Asda workers have had to come out here in the rain in Leeds to protest in order to get the company they have made rich actually listen to them.

"I'm urging Asda bosses to negotiate with the workers and their trade union."

John Smith, GMB regional officer for Yorkshire and North Derbyshire, said: "Asda are saying sign this contract or come November 2 you're sacked.

"Will Asda really got through with this? Yes they will.

"This is putting a lot of things at threat for members, that's why there's so many people here."

An Asda spokesman said: "The retail sector is undergoing significant change and it is important that we are able to keep pace with these changes.

“The overwhelming majority of our colleagues 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 have been clear that 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. Any changes will be with at least four weeks’ notice.

”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.”