AROUND 800 Sainsbury's depot workers in north west England struck just after Christmas after rejecting a pay deal.
The workers voted by an overwhelming five to one for a strike. The 24-hour walkout in Haydock began at midnight on Monday 29 December.
The workers voted to take the action because the supermarket chain's hourly pay rates are lower than those achieved by workers at similar firms in the region. Sainsbury's workers want more pay and they also want to challenge the injustice of the different pay rates and the company's freedom to ride roughshod over its workers.
The shop workers' union Usdaw represents the majority of the workforce. They are furious that their current £5.75 an hour has not been increased to the regional average of £8 an hour.
A spokesperson for Usdaw says, "In 2002 Sainsbury's recognised they were paying below the market rate for warehouse staff in the region."
He said Sainsbury's had initially pledged to increase pay rates to £8 an hour in 2004. "They have broken their promise," he added.
Usdaw's area organiser Glen Dyson says, "Our members are understandably annoyed at the company's stance on this."
The dispute is the first test for Usdaw's new general secretary, John Hannett. He is a Blair supporter and a member of Labour's national executive. His recent election was hardly a ringing endorsement-he did not get 50 percent of the vote and a left candidate did better than most people had expected.