Hundreds of Asda staff face losing their jobs this weekend if they do not sign up for a controversial new contract.
The supermarket, owned by US retailer WalMart, said staff will lose their jobs unless they agree to a new deal that will see them lose their paid breaks and have to work bank holidays.
Workers will also have to work more “flexible” hours and can be called in for shifts at shorter notice. Staff working day shifts will have to make themselves available between the hours of 8am and 10pm.
Unions have said the new arrangement will be particularly difficult for staff with caring responsibilities while Asda claims it is merely implementing standard practice for the supermarket sector.
Workers on Asda’s basic hourly rate will get a pay rise of 18p per hour to £9.18 from April next year, but the GMB union claimed this was a “smokescreen” to distract from the way the new contract. In London, hourly pay will rise to £10.31 per hour.
Reports have suggested that as many as 12,000 staff had still not signed the new contract, but Asda said the correct figure was “in the hundreds”.
In total, Asda has around 100,000 staff on hourly paid retail contracts, all of whom must move over to the new deal which has been on offer for two years.
Cath Sutton, an employee at Asda’s Runcorn branch told the BBC’s Today programme that her employer should be ashamed of
“If I sign it, it will affect me because they can move me into any department,” said Ms Sutton, 76, who has worked for Asda for 45 years.
“They can move me on to the shop floor, carrying heavy boxes, filling the shelves.” “They could change my hours any time from five in the morning to 12 at night.”
“I think at my age, why would I be able to start going to different departments and doing different jobs?”
An Asda spokesperson said the new contract “represents an investment of over £80m and an increase in real pay for over 100,000 of our hourly paid colleagues”.
He added: “We have been clear that we don't want any of our colleagues to leave us and whilst the vast majority of colleagues have chosen to sign the new contract, we continue to have conversations with those who have chosen not to, to try and understand their concerns.“
“We have been clear that we understand our colleagues have responsibilities outside of work and we will always help them balance these with their work life.”
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