Asda Wal-Mart slammed for workers rights record

By Leah Vyse

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Supermarket

Asda Wal-Mart's treatment of workers has been condemned by unions
and charities, who claim that the international retailer has drawn
up a "chip away strategy" aimed at reducing costs and increasing

According to leaked documents acquired by UK-based charity War on Want, Asda would like to remove the right of staff to take industrial disputes to the arbitration service, remove sick pay for the first three days of absence and implement the use of 'single man loading' for jobs that involve lifting, even though Asda's own risk assessment acknowledges the need for two people to undertake such tasks.

The GMB union argues that although the strategy appears to have been developed for implementation at the retailer's Lutterworth distribution centre in Leicestershire, the shake up in staffing procedures could be carried out nationally.

Now the grievances of both these groups have been crystallised in a co-sponsored document entitled Asda Wal-Mart: The Alternative Report.

The report claims the company maintains low prices through maintaining tough working regimes for their employees in both supermarkets and depots, while demanding reduced prices from suppliers in the Third world.

"Asda Wal-Mart makes a big deal of its low prices, but behind the bargains exists a trail of exploitation and hardship. Asda Wal-Mart is riding roughshod over workers on a global scale. The government must step in and bring the activities of big business under control,"​ said Louise Richards, chief executive of War on Want.

However, Asda, which was taken over by Wal-Mart in 1999 remains adamant thatit does not promote an anti-union culture in the workplace.

"Over the past few years we've won a number of accolades for our peoplepolicies and our own colleagues consistently name us one of Britain's and Europe's best places to work - only two week's ago we were named Scotland'sbest employer. All of these awards have been won since we became part ofWal-Mart,"​ said an Asda Wal-Mart spokesperson.

Earlier this year the retail group paid $135,540 to settle charges of 24 child labour violations in America. It also attracted negative publicity for its poor labour relations record when an internal audit of 25,000 employees in 128 stores in the USA found 1,371 violations of child labour laws, including minors working too late, too many hours a day and during school hours. It also found 60,000 instances where workers were forced to work through breaks, and 16,000 where they worked through meal times.

Also in 2004 an internal audit found 1,370 similar problems and in 2000 it paid $206,650 to resolve a case involving 1,436 similar charges.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc is the world's largest retailer, with total sales for2004 of $309.414 billion, with 22.2 per cent accounting for foreign sales.

Asda Wal-Mart employs 128,000 staff in the UK in its 265 stores.

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