Union warns a ‘bargain basement' deal could risk gambling with 330,000 people’s futures - as workers kept in dark on grocery merger
GMB, the union for ASDA workers, today issued a warning over a looming "supermarket sweepstake" after ASDA and Sainsbury's confirmed an attempted merger this morning.
Huge questions remain about the potential impact on the combined 330,000 UK workers employed by the supermarket giants, as the proposed merger looks set to face a rocky road for approval by regulators.
Although the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) approved Tesco’s takeover of Booker in December 2017, the deal did not increase Tesco’s retail market share because Booker was a wholesaler.
Analyst predictions suggest a Sainsbury's-ASDA merger would create the biggest UK supermarket in history - Sainsbury and Asda have market shares of 15.8 per cent and 15.6 per cent, higher than Tesco’s peak of 30 per cent in 2007.
Both Labour and the Liberal Democrat’s raised concerns over the weekend.
News of the proposed merger leaked over the weekend, with GMB members at ASDA saying they had learned the shocking news while working their Saturday afternoon shifts.
GMB has been in discussions with ASDA since the weekend's revelations and is seeking urgent reassurances on the potential impact on the jobs, pay, terms and conditions of its members.
ASDA posted annual profits of £845m in 2016 and is owned by $500bn US giant Walmart. After its most recent published quarterly figures showed sales rose 0.5% in the last three months of 2017, new ASDA boss Roger Burnley said workers should be "proud of this performance, which is testament to their hard work".
Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary said:
"It remains to be seen if this ‘supermarket sweepstake’ is the real deal or a bargain basement ready meal.
“Hundreds of thousands of workers stand to be affected, and all know such announcements tend to be followed by management speak like ‘rationalisation’ in the name of ‘efficiency’. What that usually means is job losses or cuts to pay, terms and conditions which would be wholly unacceptable. Not least because ASDA workers have already voluntarily agreed to change their contracts to be more flexible in order to play their part and help their employer be more profitable.”
"It is quite right to be asking now in whose interests this proposed merger is being tabled. Is it workers and customers or the shareholders and speculators not happy with the hundreds of millions they already make in a year?”
“The events of the last few days have left a bitter taste in the mouth of ASDA workers.
“Imagine turning up to your Saturday afternoon shifts only to learn this news, with no word from your employer at all - just speculation in the media. Our members are concerned for their futures and angry they’ve been kept in the dark.”
“ASDA is hugely profitable supermarket, posting hundreds of millions in profit and backed by hundreds of billions from their US parent company, Walmart. Asda’s success has been built on the back of its workers and it is they who now need and deserve answers and reassurances about their futures - that’s the least they deserve, and the very least their union will be demanding.”