Union members demonstrate against two-tier workforce

Tim Lezard Europe, UK, Retail, GMB,


GMB union members protesting about working conditions at Marks and Spencer distribution centres, before travelling to Slough for a demonstration. In front are GMB union officials Andy Newman and Chris Watts dressed as Scrooge and Jacob Marley. November 2014

GMB members are this morning protesting outside Marks and Spencer’s flagship Marble Arch store over agency workers being paid less than their staff colleagues.

Earlier this year the union commenced legal proceedings on behalf of members employed at the Marks and Spencer Distribution Centre in South Marston, Swindon.

Marks and Spencer own the centre but contract the running of the site to logistics company, DHL. DHL in turn recruit several hundred workers through agency, 24-7 Recruitment Services. These workers have an employment contract through yet another company, Tempay Ltd.

Workers employed by Tempay are paid £6.70 per hour while directly-employed DHL workers doing exactly the same work are paid up to £2 per hour more. Tempay staff are guaranteed only seven hours per week.

The legal claims brought by GMB, on behalf its members, are against all four companies: DHL, Wincanton, 24-7 Recruitment Services, and Tempay Ltd.

The claims relate to the Agency Worker Regulations, which came into effect in 2011, and which guarantee equal pay for agency workers after a qualifying period of 12 weeks. A loophole in the law, known as the Swedish Derogation, allows employers to evade these provisions for equal pay, by guaranteeing a few hours of work each week.

GMB regional organiser Carole Vallelly said: “This further GMB protest is against M&S getting round the law relating to equal pay for agency staff by the use of the Swedish Derogation. GMB consider that this is unethical and unlawful.

“The South Marston site is operated wholly for the benefit of Marks and Spencer. It is clear that the treatment of these workers is in breach of both M&S’ Code of Ethics and Behaviour and also in breach of M&S’ Global Sourcing Principles. The Global Sourcing Principles require each of M&S’ suppliers, whether of goods or services, to comply with all relevant laws and regulations relating to terms of employment. See notes to editors for links to M&S global and M&S Code of Ethics.

“GMB is pressing M&S to investigate the working practices at the South Marsden site. At Swindon mothers on the bus on their way into work having left their children with child-minders get text messages saying they are not needed that day.

“As a matter of principle GMB believes that all staff at South Marston site who are doing the same work should receive equal pay whoever they work for. We want an end to the two tier workforce.”

  • The protest takes place at 10.30am outside Marks and Spencer’s Marble Arch store at 458 Oxford Street, WC1 1AP. 





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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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