Usdaw Aldi

Usdaw is upping its campaign to gain recognition from Aldi, Lidl and M&S this year amid claims of dubious working practices at the discounters.

The union will engage staff by using social media and setting up stalls outside branches of the companies, which it claims are the three largest retailers operating in the UK without trade union recognition.

Usdaw aims to use staff power to come to a voluntary agreement with management rather than mounting a legal challenge to force recognition.

The union said it had campaigned for years to gain recognition at the retailers, which have consistently declined to enter into talks. It did not reveal how many members it had across the retailers but said numbers were “growing”.

The push comes after Usdaw commissioned a survey of workers at Aldi and Lidl at the end of last year, which it said uncovered claims of bullying, long working hours, a target-driven culture and problems getting time off. Usdaw said one Aldi worker complained they had been threatened with dismissal if they joined a union, while a Lidl employee claimed to receive threats from management every day.

“From the feedback, we saw a clear need for a trade union,” said Usdaw media officer David Williams. “A significant part of it is that people don’t feel they have anyone to turn to if anything goes wrong.”

Lidl said it had a “high level of internal support” and felt employees were fairly represented in the business without union recognition. It pointed out it was the first employer to adopt the national living wage and is due to increase rates further in March to make Lidl workers “amongst the best paid in the industry”.

Aldi said it did not recognise the claims made by Usdaw and said 85% of its employees rated Aldi as “a great place to work” in its most recent employee survey. Today it took back the title of the UK’s highest-paying supermarket by increasing its lowest wages by 1.5% to at least £8.53 per hour or £9.75 per hour in London

M&S said it had an independent network of elected employee representatives from every store and business unit, which played “a vital role in giving every employee a voice”.