Asda suspended Hugh Bennett, a truck driver and GMB union shop steward in Wigan, last week for writing “vote yes” on an England flag attached to his cab. The words refer to a strike ballot currently under way.
Many Asda workers feel he has been suspended for calling on union members to vote in favour of action.
Hugh told Socialist Worker, “I’m suspended for supporting my union. In our depot the managers have been putting up posters that reproduce the union ballot papers marked with no votes and telling people to vote against the action.
“At the bottom they say ‘If you have any questions see your manager.’ I complained about this to management and said that I was going to display vote yes on an England flag on the front of my truck. The manager simply laughed.
“I drove for 100 miles with the flag. There was no temperature increase in the cab or anything like that but the company say I was breaching safety rules so it suspended me.”
Shops stewards at the GMB conference this week have decided not to attend a meeting proposed for this Wednesday with Asda chief Andy Bond unless Hugh is reinstated.
Workers at 20 Asda depots are balloting over strike action. They are demanding that the union be recognized fully and collective bargaining rights. The ballot closes on 21 June.
Union reps say the company is campaigning hard for a no vote. Eddie from the Midlands, said, “Letters are being sent to every GMB member telling them to vote no. Union notices are removed but they put up notices telling people how to vote.”
Stephen from the Washington depot, north east England, said, “Management want to go back to the 1830s. The lack of union rights affects health and safety. There are more accidents. They are cutting corners and getting two people to do the job of three on a daily basis.”
Mick, a steward in Bristol, said, “We now have lads working together across the depots. Asda should think long and hard about what they are doing. We are fighting back.”