GMB northern region secretary Tom Brennan said this morning: 'This sex discrimination is completely unacceptable to GMB. Strike action or litigation will follow if the company persists with this plan.'
Approximately 175 female workers at Morrisons' finance centre at Crossgate in South Shields will receive a basic statutory redundancy package of a week's pay for each year of service, whereas male workers in depots are set to receive a redundancy package of more than three weeks of pay per year of service and a£1,000 golden goodbye.
Morrisons argued this morning that, until recently, the finance centre was dealt with out of house. A Morrisons spokesperson said: 'As a result of our takeover of Safeway in 2004, we inherited a number of distribution centres, whilst the finance centre at Crossgate was formerly operated by Hewitts, before being brought in-house. We will fully honour the contracts, agreements, statutes and policies that we inherited from those two companies.'
However the GMB, which claims to represent half the workforce at Crossgate, said that Morrisons has flouted offers to negotiate on the issue and is instead carrying out an internal consultation.
GMB northern regional organiser Steve Gibbons said: 'They are keeping us out of consultations. We are prepared to talk any time, but they are not letting us around the table. We are not ruling out strike action. If Morrisons carries on with the attitude they've got then it's probably likely we will go on strike.'
Morrisons quashed reports that the said redundancies would be effective from Christmas Eve. A Morrisons spokesman said: 'There will be no redundancies before Christmas.'
This is the latest twist in the Morrisons/GMB dispute, which has been dogging the grocer as it struggled to integrate the Safeway chain, bought in March last year.
Industrial action loomed in September, when it emerged that Morrisons was considering the closure of three depots at Bristol, Aylesford and Warrington. The action was called off after Morrisons conceded to national bargaining.