The management at Wm Morrison last night hoped to avert one of the most serious strikes to hit a supermarket chain after conceding key demands by employees' leaders.
Unions agreed to meet the company tomorrow for talks aimed at avoiding a three-day walkout by thousands of its distribution workers from Friday and a six-day stoppage from 29 September.
Officials at the Transport and General Workers' Union (T&G) and the GMB union said the discussions, involving 25 of their shop stewards, could lead to the industrial action being called off if the company was prepared to negotiate "seriously".
A spokesman for the unions said Morrisons had for the first time agreed to meet both unions at the same time in a national bargaining session, increasing the chances of a settlement.
Workers at five of the company's supply depots - including Bristol and Warrington - voted to strike over management's alleged refusal to consult employees' representatives over the fear of job losses.
Brian Revell, the national officer of the T&G, said: "This is a positive move but very much a first step in what could be a long process."
Referring to the talks, a spokesman for Morrisons said: "Having conceded the issue which formed the basis of the ballot, we've asked them to confirm that the planned industrial action is cancelled."
Sir Ken Morrison, the group's chairman, was desperate to avert the strike because the depots at the centre of the dispute supply about 60 per cent of the retailer's supermarkets.Reuse content