Colleagues check out 'Asdaspeak'

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The Independent Online

Labour Editor

Asda, the supermarket chain which yesterday introduced reduced Sunday pay rates for new staff, has encouraged some highly unusual methods of motivating staff and keeping customers happy.

The fastest check-out operators in many stores for instance wear yellow jerseys a la Tour de France. A powerful disincentive to a high work rate, according to some employees.

There is also the "golden mop" for the store with the cleanest lavatory in the region.

And there is the "10ft rule". If a manager comes within that distance of a customer he or she must speak to them, according to the company's latest training video. Presumably it doesn't particularly matter what you say as long as it is suitably banal and unctuous.

There is also an argot called "Asdaspeak". Everyone at the store's group is referred to as a "colleague", which has elicited comments that it is much like the way people were called "comrade" in the old communist regimes.

Asda has "colleague circles" where people from different departments liaise. There are "listening circles" where managers consult workers and "huddles" where supervisors plan the day.

Over-enthusiastic managers at the Wigan and Stockport stores decided recently that customers should be entertained by staff while waiting at check-outs. Juggling and hoola-hooping were among the suggestions, but "colleagues" objected and the idea was dropped.

The GMB general union believes Asda's public relations department is "bonkers". According to one PR staff member, the decision to reduce rates for staff opting to work for the first time on Sundays was "enormously popular".