// Wilko faces industrial action threat as 75% unionised staff vote in favour of it
// Retailer accused of cutting workers’ sick pay entitlement amid the Covid-19 pandemic
// Wilko says is has an enhanced sick pay policy & would continue to support staff most in need
Wilko is facing possible industrial action from unionised staff members over a dispute over sick pay.
GMB, the union representing staff, said a consultative ballot among thousands of its members showed a near 9-1 vote in favour of taking action, on a turnout of 75 per cent.
Another ballot would have to be held before any action is taken, but the union warned that strikes were “inevitable” unless the row is resolved.
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GMB has accused the retailer of cutting workers’ sick pay entitlement at a time when staff have worked to keep stores open throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Many workers are on the minimum wage, low hours and have no entitlement to statutory sick pay which will leave them with no income if they become ill, the GMB said.
“Wilko keyworkers are furious, and no wonder,” GMB national officer Roger Jenkins said.
“They’ve worked through the pandemic, risking themselves and their families, dealing with a lack of social distancing, increased threats and abuse from customers.
“Now bosses have told them they’re slashing their sick pay entitlement, which management are keeping theirs.
“If Wilko will not negotiate then strike action is now inevitable.”
Wilko said it was “disappointed” by the ballot result and argued that industrial action would not be ideal for anyone and it has an “enhanced” sick pay policy.
“Industrial action isn’t in anyone’s best interest at this challenging time for both retail in general and the high street,” a spokesman for the retailer said.
“We believe the right way to resolve any differences for the benefit of our customers and team members is through listening, talking and working things through together.
“We operate an enhanced company sick pay policy, and we’ll continue to support those team members most in need, including anyone quarantining or absent with a case of coronavirus, anyone with long-term sickness and the extremely vulnerable. This will be over and above statutory sick pay.
“Early last year, we considered some necessary changes to our policy designed to bring us more into line with other retailers. We soon put these on hold to support our team members whilst we concentrated on keeping our stores open as an essential retailer to provide our customers with access to the household and hardware items they need for their families.
“We’ve been working in collaboration with the GMB to try and tackle non-coronavirus absence.
“At the heart of these conversations was our shared strong desire to protect both Wilko team members and the future of Wilko so we can continue to serve customers, run a successful business, employ people, look after team members who need our help and offer an attractive benefits package compared to other retailers.”