Tuesday 5 November 2019

ASDA's new "contract"

ASDA used to be Associated Dairies and employed the friendly chap (they were usually chaps) who delivered your daily milk and, if the bottles lined up out side uncollected, realised something was wrong and did something about it.

Now ASDA is a supermarket and after a period of continued British ownership, is now part of the US Walmart empire.

Last Saturday ASDA staff were forced to accept new contacts or lose their jobs.  I am neither an employee, shareholder nor a customer of ASDA, so have no personal axe to grind, but am appalled at the apparent conditions implied by the new contracts.  (The word itself is misleading.  "Contract" implies an agreement voluntarily made between equals, not something forced on another on a "take it or leave it" basis.)

I am ashamed to live in a country which imposed, without choice, the following conditions:

1.  Shifts can be changed without agreement with four week's notice.
2.  Staff may be forced  to work Bank Holidays (and probably weekends) without extra pay.
3.  There is no payment for breaks.

The first condition obviously affects  parents with young children  and those with caring responsibilities, who may have organised their working hours and days to accommodate those responsibilities (or even leisure activities -   why not?)

The second demonstrates how businesses have gradually eroded cultural norms, or hard-won rights, to their own benefit and to the detriment of their employees.   When Sunday trading was permitted on a wider scale in this country in 1994 employees were assured (indeed I think it was guaranteed in the Act) that no-one would be compelled to work on a Sunday.  It was also the norm to pay "time and a quarter" for the first two hour or so of overtime, time and a half for more, and double time for Sundays and Bank Holidays.  These little compensations have now gone out of the window (even with my own main grocery, the Co-op, whom you would  think would be a model employer)

Do they really mean the third infraction: time spent on tea breaks will be unpaid?  Although the most minor in potential inconvenience it is surely the most petty.  A fifteen minute break for a cup of tea and a chat with colleagues every morning and afternoon is, sadly , the high point of many workers' day.  (I so well remember the first factory I worked in during my holidays while still at school.  Morning tea-break was at "Five to Ten" when the morning service came on the BBC Light Programme with its theme tune "Dear Lord and Father of mankind."  I think of it every time we sing that hymn.)   If they rally do mean it, even on the minimum wage, that amounts to a pay-cut of over £20 a week.
For further and better particulars of the absolute hell produced by these management practices  read "Hired" by James Bloodworth.  You'll never buy anything from Amazon again.

Remaining in the European Union will not necessary defend us from such outrages, But if we do leave, and the social democratic influence of the EU wanes and the neo-con policies of the US become even more dominate, outrages such as this will become more common.


  1. Having looked at the Dispatches programme from Channel 4 last night I am of the opinion if Labour wins we are heading for a Soviet system and if the right win a worker is to be exploited system. ASDA is an example of the latter,Amazon (re. 'Hired' in the paper) of the format. Does this country want either of them?
    Cummings is right in one thing EXPERTS should be in depts advising the 'chosen' minister. It should NOT be just 'it is buggings time for office'
    Labour one .Bring on Brexit, let it be a disaster and the 'worker' will take to the streets for change.This election could be the countries wake up call.

  2. The soul of this country is now up for sale.

    1. Yes: I hope as the campaign continues people realise that.

  3. "Contract" implies an agreement voluntarily made between equals, not something forced on another on a "take it or leave it" basis.

    Hang on, aren't all contracts on a 'take it or leave it' basis? If I want to sell my house and you want to buy it I decide what price I am willing to accept and you can either offer me that price (take it) or not (leave it).

    If I am applying for a job with you, you tell me the salary you are willing to pay me and I can decide either to accept the job for that salary (take it) or look elsewhere (leave it).

    So I'm not sure what's the difference here?

    1. In both the scenarios you suggest there is scope for negotiation. As I understand it (I've only done it once) in nearly all house sales here is haggling as the buyer rarely offers the asking price. In the private sector I believe discussion of the salary to be paid is normal, and this is becoming increasingly so in the public sector. But you have a point: "Take it or leave it" is perhaps not the best description. For the ASDA workers it is "Take it or leave. . ."

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