And Paul Kenny, acting general secretary of the GMB, added: “The reason we are seeing so much union activity in the grocery sector is that competition has got to the
point where retailers are gobbling up their own people to cut costs.”
The union’s broadside came as supermarkets announced the closure of five distribution centres this week. Morrisons confirmed that depots in Aylesford, Kent and Bristol were to close with the potential loss of 1,600 jobs. Sainsbury is to close its Northfleet depot in Kent by April, which will affect 190 workers, while two Somerfield depots, which employ 440 workers in the south east, will also be closed by April, after a review of the supermarket’s distribution network concluded that the Welwyn Garden City and Rainham depots were surplus to requirements.
Meanwhile, The Co-operative Group is facing industrial action as transport workers expressed anger over plans to end the final salary pension in favour of a scheme basing final pension on a worker’s career average salary.
And 140 oil tanker drivers at distribution company Wincanton who deliver to Tesco forecourts in the south have voted to strike following a job transfer dispute. When TDG takes over the contract, the T&G union claims workers’ terms and conditions won’t be honoured. The strike is expected to be confirmed next week and could affect depots in Purfleet in Essex, Avonmouth, near Bristol, and Cardiff.
However, one dispute was resolved this week as 145 Morrisons finance workers facing redundancy in South Shields voted to accept its offer. GMB had threatened to take Morrisons to a discrimination tribunal, as most of the workers were women and getting poorer redundancy packages than male distribution workers.
Meanwhile, Asda has become number one recruitment priority for GMB. It is trying to boost its 25,000 membership in Asda, which is well short of the 50% required for a legal mandate.
Fiona McLelland The grocery industry should brace itself for more industrial action this year, with union bosses warning that cost-cutting exercises are severely damaging employee relations.