THE GMB trade union Central Executive Council (CEC) yesterday gave the go-ahead for an official national strike ballot of members employed by Wal-Mart owned ASDA in its distribution depots.
This followed the company’s failure at talks at Dartford on Thursday last week to remove the threat by ASDA to terminate the collective bargaining agreement at the depot.
On 6th February 2006 ASDA told Dartford employees that it would terminate the existing collective bargaining arrangements on 28 February 2006 if GMB did not agree to water down the bargaining arrangements.
The GMB members to be included in the ballot work at ASDA warehouse depots including Bedford, Blackmills George, Bracknell, Chepstow, Dartford, Didcot, Erith, Falkirk, Grangemouth, Haydock, Ince George in Wigan, Kettering, Lymedale Staffordshire, Lutterworth in Leicestershire, Portbury in Bristol, Skelmersdale, ADC Wigan, Wakefield and Washington.
The union added that the timetable for the ballot will be released later.
A GMB statement said yesterday: ‘Marie Gill, Head of Industrial Relations for ASDA Distribution wrote to the GMB on 6th February 2006, seeking to conclude an agreement “to modernise the current outdated collective agreement at Dartford”.’
Gill said that if ‘substantial progress in negotiations’ was not made in four weeks, ‘the existing collective agreement between the GMB and ASDA will have to be terminated’.
The GMB added: ‘In January 2005 ASDA unsuccessfully sought a similar objective at their depot ADC Washington Tyne & Wear when they offered the work force a 10 per cent pay rise if they would give up collective bargaining.
‘On 10th February 2006 an Employment Tribunal in Newcastle on Tyne penalised ASDA to the tune of £850,000 for attempting to induce employees to give up collective bargaining.
‘The extent to which GMB members can rely on what they are told by ASDA managers was a factor taken into account by the CEC when giving authority to ballot for strike action.’
Jude Brimble, GMB National Officer of GMB responsible for ASDA said: ‘There is a litany of things ASDA has done to upset GMB members in the company.
‘ASDA pushed GMB members too far by issuing the unilateral threat to end the current agreement at Dartford on February 28. I am now going to ballot our ASDA members in all the depots for official industrial action on a range of issues.’
The GMB union has 25,000 members working in ASDA’s 300-plus stores and 21 distribution depots out of the total workforce of 140,000. GMB has collective bargaining rights in a number of these depots.