Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/331/5601
Fighting Low Pay At Sainsbury's
PICKETS WERE out again on both gates of Sainsbury's giant distribution depot at Haydock, Merseyside on 15 January. Again the strike was solid amongst the 750 USDAW members.
Andy Ford, Warrington
About 200 office staff and managers were still at work but the drivers who are organised in the TGWU had respected the picket line, with the result that nothing was moving. The depot supplies the whole of the north of England, Scotland as far as Aberdeen on the east side and Northern Ireland as well.
USDAW stewards John Pearce and Jimmy O'Neill explained that although the company have claimed in the local news that other depots can cover, in fact the Stoke depot only deals with slow-selling lines like cookware and the Rotherham depot is too small.
The scale of the depot has to be seen to be believed - I drove round it and was amazed. The strikers said that the depot is 635,000 square feet. For comparison, a normal supermarket is 'only' 40,000 square feet!
"Every other depot pays £8 an hour" said John Pearce, "It's only this one that pays £7.55". Another striker recalled that when the depot was set up the pay was only £4.50 an hour.
"People needed the work", he said, "With all the pits closing and the glassworks laying off. But a house then was £35,000, now it's more like £70,000".
There are quite a few ex-miners amongst the workforce. The progress already made from £4.50 to £7.55 an hour and the building of almost 100% union membership in the depot shows that 20 years after the defeat of the miners the principles of trade unionism are as relevant as ever.
The pickets were quietly determined. They know that the Haydock depot is vital to Sainsbury's and they are determined to get the same pay as workers in other parts of the country. They are getting good support off USDAW - and no wonder - there are dozens of other depots and cold stores at the Haydock industrial estate, and if this dispute gets results, union membership will surely increase.
(Negotiations were taking place as we went to press.)
In The Socialist 24 January 2004:
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party feature
International socialist news and analysis