Tyne & Wear warehouse employees down tools
Staff at Asda's Washington distribution centre in Tyne & Wear went on strike today as negotiations between the GMB union and management over pay broke down.

According to a GMB spokesman, Asda originally offered workers at the centre, known as SAC 2, a 10 per cent pay rise on condition that they de-unionise. Members rejected the idea and Asda came back with an offer of 3 per cent, which was also rebuffed.

After conciliation talks arbitrated by ACAS, the retailer offered 7.25 per cent over two years. The GMB said it would settle for 5 per cent to commence immediately.

GMB organiser Mark Wilson said: 'GMB members are not satisfied with what the company has offered. The company offered these workers a 10 per cent rise earlier this year if members gave up collective bargaining, which they refused to do. The strike will be solid and impact on Asda stores across the North of England. Asda will have to improve its offer. The company needs to get back to the negotiating table and sort out a deal with the members.'

Some 538 union members at the centre are affected by the strike, approved by them at a ratio of 3:1. However, Asda maintains that only a third of the total workforce at the centre voted in favour of the strike, which is expected to continue until Friday.

In a statement, the retailer said: 'We're disappointed, but we've already put contingency plans in place - customers won't notice a thing. Even at full capacity, the depot only handles about 6 per cent of our non-fresh food distribution. We believe the pay deal was a great one - well above inflation and any other deal locally.

The dispute at SAC 2 is one of several the retailer is involved in with the GMB, including sites at Skelmersdale and Wigan.