Grocer's collective bargaining clampdown angers GMB union members
Asda could face a claim for more than£1.5 million, following a dispute with 630 GMB union members at its ambient goods distribution centre at Washington, Tyne & Wear.

The row threatens to tarnish Asda with the same perceived anti-union brush as parent Wal-Mart, which faces increasing opposition to its stance in its domestic market and elsewhere.

Washington workers were offered a 10 per cent pay rise as part of a new terms and conditions package called Modern Alternative. It included the condition that workers give up the right to collective pay bargaining, although the GMB would still be involved in disciplinary disputes and grievances. Following a ballot, the offer was rejected.

Asda has so far refused to alter the deal. GMB regional organiser Mike Hopper said: 'We lodged a pay claim of 10 per cent in line with other depots. The company offered us 10 per cent on condition we give up our bargaining rights. Now we have rejected that, theysay they haven't got 10 per cent to give us.'

Washington is the only Asda distribution centre in the area that has voted to retain collective bargaining. The retailer says the change would merely bring the depot in line with others. However, the GMB has instructed solicitors to investigate whether there is a case for action against Asda for trying to induce workers to give up collective bargaining, a practice made illegal last year.

If the union brings a case to a tribunal and wins, Hopper claims Asda would have to pay each aggrieved union member£2,500 compensation. The GMB has lodged a grievance with Asda as the first step towards a tribunal. In a statement to depot staff, management said: 'Asda is not opposed to trade unions. We would still retain a dialogue with the union, establishing a partnership agreement that already works well between Asda nationally in retail and other distribution centres.'

  • Icelandic raider Baugur has made an indicative 190p-per-shareofferforSomerfield, valuing the grocer at about£1 billion. Baugur wants any offer to be recommended by Somerfield's board, which is considering the approach.