GMB to submit pay claim for members working for Tempay Ltd in Swindon

Marks & SpencerThe GMB is to submit a pay claim for members at a Marks & Spencer (M&S) distribution centre in Swindon who yesterday voted to be represented by GMB for collective bargaining.

The union is celebrating what it calls a breakthrough by securing recognition with a so-called umbrella company, Tempay Ltd.

GMB organiser Carole Vallelly said: “Now we have recognition, our first step is to prepare and submit a pay claim, and secure for our members a wage that allows them to live with dignity. It is a scandal that a company like Marks and Spencer, who boast about their ethical credentials, are exploiting workers in conditions akin to modern day slavery.”

The Swindon distribution centre is owned and used by M&S. M&S contract DHL to run the distribution centre. DHL use recruitment agency, 24-7, to provide agency workers who are given employment contracts in the name of Tempay Ltd. Tempay shares the same registered business address as 24-7.

  • Workers for Tempay Ltd have 7 hour per week contracts, but are given rotas for 37 hours. If they are not available for every day of rota they are disciplined for absenteeism, but the employer can cancel work days with no notice, and send workers home at any time, sometime as soon as they arrive for work.
  • Using ‘permanent’ contracts for the nominal 7 hours a week allows employers to evade the provisions of the Agency Workers Regulations (AWR), which came into force in 2011, that are designed to guarantee equal pay after 12 weeks employment. This abuse is popularly called the “Swedish Derogation”.
  • Many of the Tempay staff at M&S Swindon have worked at the site for several years. Over 75% of non-managerial staff are agency workers. Such long permanent assignments are contrary to the intention of the Swedish derogation and GMB believes indicate an regulation avoidance tactic.

Even 24-7 senior managers cannot explain the commercial relationship with Tempay. Staff don’t even have the dignity of knowing who they work for.

  •  The actual employer, Tempay Ltd, although it employs 2,500 people has only two administrative staff for payroll, it has no managers, no HR department, and no internal structure for governance. It is a paper company that seemingly only exists for legal avoidance. Employment through these so-called Umbrella companies has spread like wildfire though distribution and construction sectors.
  •  Low pay and precarious employment means workers on these contracts feel like second class citizens, unable to get a mortgage or be granted hire purchase or loans, and unable to even feel secure that they can pay the rent or feed their families.

Many prestigious High Street companies, including Marks and Spencer, use employment agencies in their supply chain to push wage costs down and inhibit staff from asserting employment rights. The culture of abusing agency worker status has led to employers treating their staff as commodities, breaking the moral contract that hard work should be rewarded.

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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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