GMB, the union for Asda workers, has called on the company to lift its threat of sacking those who do not accept a new contract.
Last month protesting workers marched to the supermarket's headquarters in Leeds to deliver a 23,000-signature petition arguing that what is known as Contract 6 will see them lose paid breaks.
Under the agreement first put forward in 2017, Asda said that it was offering staff a higher wage in exchange for the introduction of unpaid breaks and a requirement to work over Bank Holidays.
It has extended its deadline for workers to sign until 10 November and pointed out that working on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day will continue to be voluntary, and double pay will be offered.
GMB National Officer Gary Carter said: “This 11th hour delay kicks the can down the road for Asda workers who are unable to sign this punishing new contract. They now face the prospect of the sack even closer to Christmas.”
He argues that “women workers with kids, caring responsibilities or other part-time jobs” will find it impossible to sign up to the new terms.
The union has also criticised the supermarket giant for handing out leaflets to staff with advice on finding a new job, including using the local job centre, getting an email address and with top tips for writing a CV.
Asda says that an “overwhelming majority” has signed on so far although the GMB points out that up to 12,000 workers have not yet done so.
Contract 6 originally proposed to increase the base rate of hour pay for shop workers from £8.21 to £9, excluding location or skill-based premiums. Asda has recently offered a further 18p increase to £9.18.
Night shifts, which are better paid per hour, are being reduced from eight to five hours (12am to 5am).
A spokesman for the company said that anybody working after the deadline will be doing so on the new terms, including the increased pay rate of £9 per hour, “as these will be the only terms that exist in Asda”.
“We understand people have responsibilities outside of work and we will always help them to balance these with their work life,” the statement went on.
Comment by Andy Willis, Head of Legal at Croner
Arranging a change in contractual terms can be a difficult task, especially when it involves such a large number of employees. Unfortunately, there is no foolproof way to ensure staff agree to any proposed changes, which is why a consultation period is essential.
Employers must engage in an open and honest consultation period with staff, before forcing through any changes. During this time, individuals should be allowed to put forward any counter-proposals.
Dismissal may be used as a final solution if the consultation is unsuccessful. However, this is a decision that employees must not take lightly.
Employers with the relevant service may be able to claim unfair dismissal in these circumstances, and those affected must still be offered the opportunity to rejoin the organisation on these amended terms.
Last reviewed 7 November 2019