Some 340 GMB union members working for Asda at the ADC Depot in Washington, Tyne & Wear, who were awarded compensation of £2,500 each by an Employment Tribunal last month are still waiting for payment. Asda, which is now owned by the US Wal-Mart corporation, is appealing against being penalised for a failed attempt at union busting.
Asda's decision to appeal coincides with the GMB announcement that a national strike ballot will start in mid April.
The Employment Tribunal found Asda to be in breach of the law which forbids employers inducing employees to give up their trade union rights. In autumn 2004 workers at the depot were offered a 10 percent pay rise in return for giving up union bargaining rights. Asda funded an anti union campaign by Portland PR – a firm run by Tony Blair's ex spin doctor Tim Allan – to persuade union members to vote to end collective bargaining. The campaign was unsuccessful and union members voted to reject the inducement in January 2005.
The GMB took the case to an Employment Tribunal in Newcastle and the case was heard this January. Asda was found guilty and penalised to the tune of £850,000 on 10 February.
On 27 February the GMB authorised a national strike ballot of workers in Asda's 21 distribution depots and warehouses across the country over collective bargaining and the non payment of bonuses. This was after the company issued an ultimatum to terminate the collective agreement at Dartford depot,unless the GMB agreed to water down the agreement.
Evidence was produced at the tribunal which linked Marie Gill, Asda's Head of PR, and Tim Allan of Portland PR to an e-mail discussing the sacking of 'refuseniks' who would not give up their trade union rights. The tribunal found that the Asda management were not telling the truth about their union busting activities.