Socialist Worker

If it’s not safe Asos workers must walk

Issue No. 2705

A GMB union protest at Asos in 2018

A GMB union protest at Asos in 2018 (Pic: GMB)


A suspected coronavirus outbreak at an Asos retail warehouse has sparked calls for the site to be closed while a deep clean is carried out.

The GMB union has written to Asos co-founder Nick Robertson after receiving multiple reports of confirmed Covid-19 cases among nearly 4,000 workers at the gigantic Barnsley warehouse.

But letters won’t be enough. Unions need to organise walkouts at unsafe workplaces—and quickly.

Staff have long been concerned about a lack of social distancing and hygiene measures—branding the site a “cradle of disease”. 

A recent poll of almost 500 workers at the Grimethorpe site found that 98 percent felt unsafe at work during the crisis.

In March the union said Asos was “playing Russian roulette with people’s lives”.

The conditions were so dire that staff staged an unofficial walkout.

One worker tweeted, “I am telling you that me and my colleagues are really afraid to go to work, it is impossible to keep a safe distance inside the warehouse.

If you are poor you don’t count, you are just a number for them. Shame on them.”

The worker added that they had been told not to wear a mask at work as it was not part of their uniform.

Asos replied that union claims of danger “do nothing more than serve to create panic and hysteria in an already uncertain time”.

This employer needs to be forced to give its workers they rights they deserve. That will require action.


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