// Asda accused of leaving 3000 supermarket staff short-changed amid proposed contract changes
// Proposals include an end to paid breaks, simplified terms and increasing basic pay to £9p/hr
// Fears that 2700 staff will lose up to £500 per year, with a further 300 harder hit
Asda has been accused of leaving 3000 shop floor staff worse off as part of proposed changes to employee contracts that will see the end of paid breaks.
Last week, the Big 4 grocer said it would seek to simplify terms for hourly paid workers and increase the basic rate of pay for all retail employees from £8.21 to £9 per hour.
The new contracts would also still include the benefits of an annual bonus, colleague discount, sharesave and pension.
However, staff would be asked to work more flexible times such as on bank holidays while breaks would no longer be paid.
Asda has entered into a consultation on the proposals, which could see the contracts take effect in late 2019.
Labour Mitcham and Morden MP Siobhain McDonagh has said in a letter to Asda chief executive Roger Burnley that staff involved in the process could lose up to £500 per year.
She also accused Asda of reduced night shifts to five hours, between 12am and 5am, as part of the contract proposals.
Writing after a meeting with Asda public affairs senior director Chris Lowe, McDonagh said the loss of paid breaks, an end to premium pay and shortening of night shifts would hit staff wages.
She added that approximately 2700 staff will lose up to £500 per year, with a further 300 to be harder hit.
“For these staff, £500+ is a huge amount of money and would have a significant impact on their livelihoods,” she wrote.
“I welcome any increase in basic hourly pay – but this must not be used to disguise a significant pay cut for 3,000 of your most longstanding staff.”
McDonagh also raised concerns over staff being required to work more flexible times.
She said that while some might welcome the change, others who may have care considerations may find the changes “extremely difficult”.
She tweeted her letter to Burnley in full today:
My urgent letter to CEO @asda: downgrading contracts, unpaid breaks and shortened nightshift will see 3,000 staff salaries fall – all under the smokescreen of an 'increase in basic pay'. That's ASDA price… pic.twitter.com/FT7sXa1Vof
— Siobhain McDonagh MP (@Siobhain_MP) April 16, 2019
The GMB trade union, which represents Asda employees, last week raised concerns over the plans to change contracts, calling for negotiations.
Meanwhile, Asda said the changes would bring it in line with industry standards.
“As our customers continue to change the way they shop with us, we also have to be prepared to change to meet their needs, and a key part of delivering great service is having the right colleagues in the right place at the right time, which is what this contract aims to achieve,” Asda senior vice president for operations Anthony Hemmerdinger said.
The news comes less than three months after lost a long-running court battle over equal pay.
On January 31, the Court of Appeal upheld the a previous ruling that lower-paid shop floor staff, who are predominantly women, can compare themselves to depot workers who are predominantly men.
The ruling concerned the first of three stages in an ongoing equal pay case into whether the roles are comparable, and whether both parties should ultimately be paid the same.
Meanwhile, Asda’s prospective merger partner Sainsbury’s made similar changes to its contracts last year, whereby it eliminated paid breaks but upped the base level of pay.
The UK’s competition watchdog, the CMA, is expected to shortly publish Sainsbury’s and Asda’s responses to its provisional findings on an inquiry on their proposed £12 billion merger.
The regulator’s final report is set to be published by April 30.