WORKERS AT Sainsbury's distribution centre covering supermarkets across the north of England have voted to reject the company's pay offer and may be moving to a ballot for strike action.
Shop workers' union Usdaw said on Friday of last week it would give Sainsbury's seven days notice of its intention to hold a ballot on industrial action after workers at the Haydock depot on Merseyside voted for a better pay deal.
The company's offer falls short of £8 per hour, which the workers were promised in 2002 to bring them up to the best paid quarter of warehouse workers in the north west of England.
The union has 780 members at the Haydock site, which represents almost all the workforce. A total of 637 workers voted in the pay offer ballot, with 516 voting to reject the latest offer.
The union was seeking an improved offer from management as Socialist Worker went to press.
If there is no acceptable offer, then there should be no delay in holding a very quick ballot for strike action.
The four supermarket giants which dominate food sales in Britain make a very high proportion of their profits over Christmas and New Year.
They depend on uninterrupted, 24-hour distribution to restock stores. Any action at this time of year would devastate Sainsbury's.
That gives the Haydock workers enormous power.
Workers and union reps have already bent over backwards to meet the pressures of the job at Haydock.
Two years ago then education secretary Estelle Morris praised the lifelong learning scheme at the site, which union reps had cooperated with.
Now they are finding management's idea of partnership does not extend to ending poverty pay.