Source: Sainsbury’s

Sainsbury’s has sought to strengthen its relationship with retail union members within its network. 

The supermarket has signed a new partnership agreement with the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw) which aims to more clearly define the role of union representatives by providing clearer guidelines on how they can carry out their duties and communicate with the company.

The agreement, which was signed by Sainsbury’s CEO Simon Roberts and Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis, would also provide additional freedom to the reps by ensuring they have the time to adequately carry out their union duties, and have better access to training.

The new agreement would enable the union to provide better protection for its members, and signalled Sainsbury’s intent to work with Usdaw’s members, a spokesman for the union said.

“Usdaw has a long-standing relationship with Sainsbury’s and we welcome this opportunity to improve our recognition agreement with the business,” said Usdaw national officer Dave Gill. “Usdaw workplace reps are unpaid volunteers who do a brilliant job of providing our members with the advice, support and representation they need.

“This new partnership agreement is full recognition from Usdaw and all of Sainsbury’s management of the important role our workplace reps have in helping the business to grow and prosper. We look forward to a good relationship with the company for many years to come, based on openness, honesty and constructive working, which the company are keen to promote.

“Usdaw this month launched a new blueprint for the future of retail work to ensure that shopworkers are valued and respected. That is best achieved through decent pay and secure contracts, fair treatment and equality, in safe and healthy working environments. Those issues will be the cornerstone of our future discussions with Sainsbury’s in our newly strengthened relationship.”

It comes as Sainsbury’s seeks to progress with the first stage of a £220m shake-up of its logistics network as part of Roberts’ wider efficiencies programme, first announced in April. 

By 2024, Sainsbury’s wants to streamline management of its distribution centres by transferring to three main partners – Wincanton, DHL and GXO – rather than rely on multiple operators. The move is expected to affect some 7,000 workers, who will be transferred between the employers. 

The Grocer understands some Usdaw members are affected by the distribution reshuffle, including at Sainsbury’s Pineham depot in Northamptonshire, the management of which is due to be transferred to GXO.

Sainsbury’s is also planning to shut two depots serving Argos by 2026, as part of a wider restructure of its general merchandise distribution chain announced in February.  

“As we continue to simplify our operations at pace and deliver cost savings, which allow us to invest in the things that matter most to our customers and colleagues, we’re proud to continue working with Usdaw,” a spokeswoman for Sainsbury’s said.

“Our new agreement renews this and our commitment to this productive partnership.”

Usdaw does not provide exact figures on membership within specific retailers, but a spokesperson said the union has tens of thousands of members across Sainsbury’s retail shops and distribution network.