Unite is threatening to disrupt deliveries to 100 M&S stores in London and the south east by staging 12 days of strike action.
The union is organising a series of 24-hour strikes among 20 employees at the Hemel Hempstead site of Gist, which supplies M&S with nationwide deliveries, over claims of an £8,000 discrepancy in pay.
The 20 affected pickers and loaders earn £22,000 a year under a local agreement with Gist, but Unite says they do the same work as employees earning £30,000 on national terms and conditions.
According to Unite, the discrepancies date back to 2008, when there was a local arrangement to supply food to BP garages. However, the logistics arrangement has since changed and those employees now do the same work as those on the M&S national contract.
Strike action will commence on 30 June, followed by four strike days in July, four in August and three in September.
Unite claimed the strikes could cause disruption to 100 M&S sites in London and the south east at weekends. “This dispute could be easily resolved if the 20-plus workers were put on the national agreement that covers 2,000 Gist employees nationwide,” said Unite regional officer Alan Brkljac.
“The management has continually dragged its feet on this issue and we call on Marks & Spencer to exercise its influence on Gist to assist in the settlement of this dispute,” he added. “It was only two years ago that M&S signed the £2bn, 10-year exclusive deal with Gist, which prides itself on being an ethical employer, to provide logistics for its growing food store business.”
M&S said it was “working closely” with Gist to resolve the issue. “We have contingency plans in place and, if the strike goes ahead, our Hemel Hempstead distribution centre will continue to operate and deliveries to stores will continue as usual,” said a spokeswoman.
Gist was not available for comment.