Up to 1,000 Asda workers and their supporters marched on the supermarket’s headquarters in Leeds on Wednesday.
The GMB union organised the protest against bosses’ plans to impose “Contract 6”, a punitive new contract that would rip up workers’ terms and conditions. It would introduce unpaid breaks and force people to work on Sundays and bank holidays.
This would have a huge impact on their lives.
Moira Hunter from Rotherham in South Yorkshire has worked for Asda for 38 years. “They’re just taking everything away from us,” she said. “The loyalty and commitment stand for nothing.
“It’s just money, money, money—it’s wrong what they are doing.”
Another Asda worker said, “I’m losing eight holiday days. I’ve worked for Asda for 22 years and it’s like they just don’t care.”
Workers have to sign by early November or risk being “sacked and reemployed” on the new contract. “They’ve given us until midnight on 2 November to sign,” said Moira. “If we don’t and we turn up the next day we will be dismissed.”
Asda is owned by the super-wealthy Walmart corporation. It claims that the majority of the workforce has already signed up, but this isn’t a sign of its popularity.
One Asda worker said they had been forced to sign because they couldn’t “stand any more stress”.
“I’m off sick with my husband as he’s terminally ill,” she said.
Another worker added, “I’m really worried about losing my job if I don’t sign over.”
GMB members came from regions across Britain, including Wales and Scotland. Marchers chanted, “No ifs, no buts, no Asda cuts” and, “Shame on you”, as they made their way down Neville Street.
Tim Roache, the GMB general secretary, asked the crowd, “Is that the behaviour of a reasonable, decent employer?”
“Asda, you don’t have to race to the bottom, there’s an alternative, there’s a way you can lead rather than follow the industry standards,” he added.
“There’s a way you can stand out, stand above it and treat your workers with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
Other speakers at the rally included Richard Burgon, Labour shadow justice secretary and Leeds East MP. He said, “I think Asda bosses are treating staff not in the right way they deserve.
“It's a race to the bottom by a very profitable company.”
The march in Leeds showed the strength of feeling among Asda workers. And in a recent consultative ballot 93 percent of GMB members rejected the contract.
The GMB leadership should hold a national ballot for strikes to stop bosses imposing the new contract.