Asda is facing potential disruption to supermarket deliveries after thousands of lorry drivers, warehouse staff and clerical workers voted to reject a pay offer.
Almost 70% of the GMB union’s 8,000 members within Asda’s distribution network, which employs 12,000 in total, voted to reject pay rises of between 5% and 7.5%.
That pay rise compares to inflation of 7.8% – on the retail prices index measure – while the legal minimum wage is set to increase by 6.6% in April. The government’s preferred measure of inflation – the consumer prices index – is expected to rise from 5.5% in January to almost 8% in April.
Almost 80% of those balloted said they were ready to take action over the pay deal, raising the prospect of strikes that would affect all 23 distribution depots serving the UK’s third largest supermarket chain.
Nadine Houghton, a national officer for the GMB, said: “The UK is facing the worst cost of living crisis for a generation. Inflation is rampant and energy prices are out of control.
“Yet Asda workers are being taken for mugs with a below-inflation pay offer that basically means a real-terms pay cut.
“They’re not going to take it lying down – it’s now up to Asda bosses to come back with a reasonable offer and avert the threat of industrial action.”
Jon Parry, the vice-president of Asda Logistics Services, said: “We value the key role our colleagues play to keep our stores well stocked, and we have negotiated in good faith with the GMB to make a fair, competitive and sustainable pay offer that recognises rising inflation. We are disappointed this has been rejected.”
Asda said it expected the GMB to honour a national recognition agreement under which the next step would be a meeting between the union, the supermarket and the conciliation service Acas.
Asda is the latest major business to face potential industrial action over pay as shortages of workers, particularly those qualified to drive large lorries, empowers those in relatively low-paid work.
The supermarket was forced join rivals in offering signing-on fees of as much as £1,000 last year as a combination of the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit reduced access to suitable staff.
The average hourly rate for Asda distribution workers is currently £15.07 for a driver and £13.09 for a warehouse worker.
Before Christmas, Tesco avoided threatened strike action by the Usdaw and Unite unions, which would have affected about 13 of its 22 distribution centres, after offering an improved pay deal. Drivers were offered a 5.5% rise backdated to July and a further 0.5% from the end of February this year.
Drivers at the courier group Yodel, which works with some of the UK’s biggest retailers, including Marks & Spencer and Aldi, also won a pay rise to £16 an hour after a threat of strike action by GMB members.
A further strike by Unite members at Tesco’s Booker wholesale business planned before Christmas was suspended pending a pay review. It is understood talks are continuing.