02/11/2019 10:37 GMT

Asda Gives Workers Extra Week To Sign 'Punishing' New Contracts

The new conditions would see workers lose paid breaks and be given less notice before shifts.

Eddie Keogh / Reuters
An employee stocks shelves at the Asda superstore in High Wycombe, Britain, February 8, 2017. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

Asda has given its employees a week longer to sign new contracts, after being told they would face the sack if they didn’t agree to the new conditions which will impact pay and benefits. 

Workers at the supermarket giant have been given “a little longer” to agree to the new conditions after the deadline, which originally stood on Saturday night, was extended on Friday afternoon to November 10. 

The GMB union have criticised the move saying it merely “kicks the can down the road”.

The union claimed last week that up to 12,000 employees would not sign, however supermarket bosses told The Guardian on Friday that fewer than 1,000 people had refused the new terms. 

GMB leaders have urged Asda to lift the threat of sacking anyone not agreeing to sign the new contract, which it says would see staff lose paid breaks and have to work bank holidays.

Asda said it was giving staff “a little longer” to consider their decision following the end of their notice period. But colleagues working after Saturday night would be doing so under the terms and conditions stipulated in the contract, bosses said.

A spokesman for the supermarket said: “Colleagues can still turn up to work, but anybody working after Saturday night will be doing so on the new terms, including the increased pay rate of £9 per hour, as these will be the only terms that exist in Asda.

“We have been absolutely clear throughout this process that we don’t want any of our colleagues to leave us and have worked extensively with them and union representatives to understand and address any concerns.”

They added that the “overwhelming majority” of employees had chosen to sign the new contract, and claimed the changes had come alongside an £80million investment in pay for more than 100,000 workers. 

“We understand people have responsibilities outside of work and we will always help them to balance these with their work life,” they continued, adding that despite “extensive engagement” with workers there had been “some misinformation from external parties to our colleagues.” 

Any employees who have not signed the contract after Saturday’s notice period had ended will be contacted again by the supermarket and offered the opportunity to sign up. “We don’t want any colleague to make a decision to leave and then regret it,” the Asda spokesperson said. 

“Change is never easy, but we are determined that Asda remains a sustainable business for its customers and colleagues – now and in the future.”

The decision to extend the deadline by a week has been heavily criticised by union bosses, who described the move as an “eleventh hour delay” and said the move would disproportionately impact women. 

Gary Carter, GMB’s national officer, said: “This eleventh hour delay kicks the can down the road for Asda workers who are unable to sign this punishing new contract. They now face the prospect of the sack even closer to Christmas.

“Asda are clearly feeling the heat from the opposition to their behaviour but this move does not change the brutal reality facing long-serving, dedicated staff.

“Thousands of Asda workers have been forced into signing this new contract because they can’t afford to lose their jobs, least of all in the run up to Christmas.” 

The changes to the contract include a more “flexible” approach to working hours, which means employees could be called in to work at shorter notice. 

Carter added: “A seven day delay won’t change the fact that people – often women workers with kids, caring responsibilities or other part-time jobs – simply can’t sign up to these new terms.

“We’re talking about people who have worked at Asda for decades – this is not how any employer should treat loyal, hardworking people. Asda should get back round the table to negotiate and offer a better deal to its workers.”