Asda’s proposed pension changes under fire from unions

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Asda pensions

Asda is facing heat from two major workers’ unions over proposed changes to its staff pension scheme.

Asda is in the midst of a 60-day consultation period over proposals that includes cutting the contributions it adds to staff pensions to the legal minimum, giving staff less choice about saving for their retirement, and the death in service provision being reduced from four times pay to one times pay for everyone.

Union leaders from GMB and Usdaw believe the proposed changes mean thousands of low-paid Asda workers will be worse off.

Last week, GMB said they mulling the possibility of challenging the proposals in court and were set to meet Asda’s American parent company.

GMB spokesman Gary Carter said: “As a large and very profitable company, Asda can do far better than minimum pay and minimum pensions.

“Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Co-op all contribute more into their employees’ pensions.”

Meanwhile, Usdaw, which represents Asda staff in Northern Ireland, said they “utterly oppose” the planned pensions changes and urged the Big 4 grocer to withdraw its proposals.

“We understand that there must be statutory changes to the pension, but Asda has seen this as an opportunity to make additional changes in order to save money at the expense of staff, rather than take an opportunity for the company to improve their pension offering. This is a slap in the face for our members,” Usdaw area organiser Michala Lafferty said.

“Usdaw believes that to worsen the current terms and conditions of the scheme is unfair, unreasonable and unnecessary.

Lafferty added: “Pensions are not a bonus or gift – they are based on earnings and are effectively deferred wages. Usdaw believes it is an entitlement and we view this proposal as nothing more than a wage cut.

“Our members are already reacting negatively to this proposal. We are calling on the company to withdraw these changes and engage in meaningful talks with Usdaw to find a way forward.”

A spokesperson from Asda told Retail Gazette that they were taking staff feedback seriously before any final decisions were made.

“We are currently consulting with our colleagues on proposals to amend our pensions scheme,” the spokesperson said.

“We are taking all comments and feedback on these proposals seriously before any final decisions are made.”

The news comes less than a fortnight after Asda’s Christmas trading update indicated that it enjoyed a surprise 5.3 per cent sales boost, pushing it ahead of its Big 4 rivals.

Last year also saw the grocer finally recover some ground two consecutive quarters of sales growth after a slump that lasted 11 consecutive quarters.

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