Employment agencies warned not to help break Asda strike

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The Independent Online

Employment agencies are being told by their own industry leaders to refuse to supply staff to break a five-day strike scheduled to start on Friday at the Asda supermarket group.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation has reminded its 8,000 corporate membership that it is unlawful to replace a workforce that is engaged in legal industrial action with "temps".

Last night, the GMB general union was considering making an application for an injunction against a number of agencies which it believed were about to provide Asda's supply depots with "strike breakers". The union was seeking written assurances from the companies concerned.

Meanwhile, Asda said it was determined to press ahead with legal action of its own against the GMB and said that it had no intention of breaking the law.

The supermarket group is scheduled to apply for an injunction tomorrow to stop thousands of members of the GMB from walking out on Friday. The company is alleging that there were major irregularities in the union's strike vote which meant that ballot papers were sent out to people who were no longer employed by the company.

Last week, the union announced that, in a 57 per cent turnout, workers at 20 Asda depots voted by nearly three to one to walk out in a dispute over union recognition.

The GMB has hired a coach and horses to demonstrate outside those agencies which it believes are about to "drive a coach and horses" through the employment legislation.

Yesterday it appeared outside an agency in south-east London, but was diverted away from Dartford in Kent after another company agreed to abide by the law. The coach and horses are set to appear in St Helens in Lancashire today and Leeds tomorrow.

In a letter, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation warned its members "in unequivocal terms" that while those with long-standing arrangements with Asda could continue to supply labour, they could not supply staff to replace a striking workforce "either directly or indirectly".

The union has claimed that without a replacement workforce there would be an immediate impact at Asda stores.