Employing agency staff would break law, says union
General workers union GMB has threatened legal action if Asda employs agency staff during strike action.

At the GMB congress in Blackpool yesterday, the union expressed fears that, if the proposed strike action were to go ahead, the grocer would employ agency staff or 'scabs' to take the place of picketing workers.

Under new laws passed last year, Asda could face prosecution if they do employ agency staff during a legal strike action. The employment agencies may also be subject to a£5,000 fine for each worker and a ten-year ban.

Last week, the union sent out ballot papers to 7,000 Asda distribution staff asking them to strike for collective bargaining rights at Asda distribution depots. The result of the vote is expected on June 21.

In a speech at the GMB congress, general secretary Paul Kenny said: 'If anybody thinks I am going into an industrial dispute with a company like Asda, or anybody else, playing the Marquis of Queensbury rules while they hire labour to do our members' jobs when they are in a legitimate, lawful, legal dispute, you are living in Cuckoo Land. If they're going to break the law, we're both going to break the law.'

Asda responded to GMB claims, saying it is premature of the GMB to accuse it of breaking the law before it has even been decided if industrial action will take place.

The two have been locked in dispute over collective bargaining rights at 20 Asda depots since February this year. Talks between Asda chief executive and the union collapsed last month.

Asda gives full union recognition and collective bargaining rights in nine out of 20 depots.