Controversy over Asda’s New Contracts

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In March, Asda released a new employment contact (6) which simplify terms for hourly paid workers and increased basic pay. Originally it was announced that employees had to sign the new contract 6 by midnight on Saturday 2nd November.

The key change is an increase of hourly pay to £9.00. However changes also included the loss of paid breaks as well as being expected to work on some bank holidays. If a worker was contracted to work on those days, for them to take time off it would be taken out of an individual’s holiday pay. 

Additionally, employees are required to be more flexible in when they can work, being given shorter notice of shifts. According to one employee, Duncan Carson, this would mean he might have to work hours from 5am to midnight. 

Over the past year, there has been significant action and response taken by employees in the form of protests. One of these protests occurred in Leeds, where Asda’s headquarters are based, where employees delivered over 23,00 signatures protesting the contract in a shopping trolley.

Yorkshire Evening Post

An Asda representative has said the changes reflect an investment of £80 million into its workforce in order to keep up to date with an increasingly competitive market. 

This investment in its employees suggests that Asda is concerned for its workforce.

However it could be argued that this is a legal obligation as minimum wage is projected to increase to £9 by April 2020 anyway.

According to the GBM (General, Municipal and Boilermakers) union, there have been reports too of Asda managers handing out leaflets outlining how to find a new job showing an insensitivity to concerns over the new contract.

Workers who have not signed the new contract are either being forced to sign the contract or risk losing their job. This is because according to GMB union, those who have not signed are currently working a 12-week notice period.

GMB trade union engaged in a collective consultation with ASDA back in June. They won some improvements such as minimising the impact of unpaid breaks and festive bank holidays such as Christmas Day and Boxing day remaining voluntary with employees still being paid double. 

Despite this, union members are still unhappy with new employment contract 6 and feel not enough improvements have been made.

Asda have said that despite the reports of negative feedback from employees, the majority of ASDA’s over-100,000 workers have signed the new contact in October. There were reports at the time according to Sky News that up to 12,000 employees have not signed the contract in protest. 

However since then 120,000 workers have now signed on since the November 2nd deadline with less than 300 employees not signing.

An employee from Runcorn, Duncan Carson, has said that Asda should be ashamed for the stress they are causing employees.

Carson shared his story on Twitter saying,

“At midnight I was sacked by Asda after 13 years. Not for doing anything wrong but for refusing to sign a new contract agreeing to work whatever days, hours and Bank holidays that suits them that week. Not asked, told. Sign it or you’re fired” 

According to the Mirror, Carson has since made plans to take legal action against Asda telling them,

“I am taking legal action against Asda because a contract is an agreement between the two parties”

All companies must keep up with dynamic markets through cutting costs and changing various policies in order to remain competitive. 

The “Big Four” supermarkets, Asda, Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s, have faced increasing competition from supermarkets like Lidl and Aldi over recent years. This has created an increased pressure to cut costs and maintain profits. 

In industry figures supplied by Kantar Worldpanel in October, Asda’s sales slipped by 0.9% in the 12 weeks leading up to the 6th October and brough its share of the supermarket sector down to just 15%.

Asda had previously planned to merge with Sainsbury’s but this was blocked on competition grounds from the Competition and Markets Authority earlier in the year. 

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