Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/401/4567
Distribution staff fight for pay and conditions
TRADE UNIONS representing Morrison's retail distribution workers are considering strike action to secure meaningful negotiations with the company.
Since the takeover of Safeway by Morrison's in 2003 the company have been 'harmonising' pay and conditions at the ex-Safeway depots in Aylesford, Kent and Warrington, Cheshire.
GMB members at Aylesford have voted overwhelmingly for strike action in a consultative ballot. Andy Ford spoke to Jeff Goswell of the GMB about the situation at Aylesford.
"Since the takeover there has been a constant chipping away - first they took the staff discount card off them, then they stopped paying for the protective footwear. Now they want to change over to the Morrison's methods and Morrison's shift patterns, which will cut a lot of members' shift money."
The Aylesford workers are sceptical about the new working practices. Safeway was actually more efficient, but the company want to harmonise regardless.
"And they're doing all this without guaranteeing the future of the depot", says Jeff.
The company have deliberately left a question mark over the future of the ex-Safeway depots, probably to help them push through the changes.
Consultation is very poor. There are occasional meetings with the GMB, but Morrison's prefer to cascade most information through line managers, by-passing the GMB and stewards in the depot, even though the union has around 90% membership.
"The final straw was when the company refused to let the stewards attend a national meeting", explains Jeff. "We went to a tribunal which decided that the reps had the right to go to the meeting.
But when they actually attended the meeting Morrison's refused to pay them!"
This just shows the nonsense of the trade union laws in this country - Morrison's seem to feel that they are above the law. But no doubt if the GMB calls a ballot Morrison's will suddenly discover that 'the law of the land must always be obeyed'. The GMB is going back to the tribunal in the face of the company's apparent contempt for the previous ruling.
In the meantime the GMB and TGWU have written to Morrison's requesting national negotiations. If the company refuse, the unions have said they will run a national ballot for industrial action.
l Messages of support can be sent to: Jeff Goswell, GMB, 3 Park View Road, Welling, Kent.
In The Socialist 14 July 2005: