Asda peace talks falter

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Union leaders were yesterday predicting an overwhelming vote in favour of strikes at Asda's supply depots after top-level talks broke up without agreement.

Andy Bond, the supermarket giant's chief executive, met GMB shop stewards and senior officials at a hotel in Blackpool where the union is holding its annual conference, but both sides agreed there had been no progress.

The result of a strike ballot among up to 11,000 warehouse workers is due to be announced on Wednesday, and industrial action could begin a week later. The union is in dispute with the company over a number of issues, including pay and national bargaining.

Jude Brimble, the GMB national officer, said after the meeting that nothing new was put on the table by the company. "A wide gulf separates the parties and no progress was made today to bridge the gap," she said.

However, the union welcomed a decision by Asda to reinstate a Wigan-based worker who had been suspended for writing a union message on an England football flag.

An Asda spokeswoman said any vote for industrial action was "pointless". She said the company had agreed to a national joint council which could lead to collective bargaining if employees wanted it. "Despite our best efforts, they were more interested in shouting than talking," she said.

Meanwhile plans to create a powerful super-union were in disarray yesterday after the GMB pulled out of negotiations.

While Amicus and the Transport and General Workers' Union said they would press ahead with a merger, delegates at the GMBconference voted overwhelmingly to go it alone. However, even without the GMBthe new organisation will be nearly two million-strong, with members in virtually every FTSE 100 company, and will play a strong role in the Labour Party.