unhappy-shoppers

UK Working Women Take On Walmart

What a brilliant few months it has been for us supermarket haters.

A  truly golden era for  those of us  who would rather walk down the Shankill Road wearing a Celtic top than spend a Saturday  pushing  a rickety trolley around a packed  soulless megastore trying to avoid  stray toddlers.

Abandoned-trolley

In September, Tesco announced that they had overstated their half yearly profits by  just over £250 million. A substantial sum, even for a premier league footballer. That was grossly negligent (if we’re being kind) or potentially fraudulent (if we’re  not). The news prompted a investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority and wiped billions off the value of the company whose  share price went down faster than  Oprah Winfrey on a death slide.

Of more concern was the reason behind the “error”, which was to mask the effects of a  huge reduction in Tesco’s market share. It lost  5% in the last year,  largely due  to competiton from  Aldi and Lidl. Tesco were hiding the fact they were  living on past glories having been out-thought and outperformed  by  German rivals. They have  become  the retail equivalent of our national  football team.

Life’s not a whole lot better over at Sainsburys. They’ve always been a bit useless (imagine  Waitrose dropped on its head as a baby) but they have  also been seriously squeezed in a super competitive retail market.  A  recently announced second quarter drop in sales saw its share price fall by over 6 %. A thorough strategic review is planned for November. It’s long overdue.

Asda, effecively global retail giant Walmart’s UK operation, are the latest of the Big Four to hit trouble. They have been the subject of a huge employment law claim  by 19,000 of their female employees based at their UK distribution centres.

The women are part of a group action brought by UK  law firm Leigh Day throughout  the UK. These sex descrimination  claims are being made with reference to equal pay legislation, notably the requirement that employees in the same company, doing work of equal value, should receive equal pay. The women in question are mainly check-out staff and shelf-stackers and are paid less than their colleagues in the warehouse, mainly men, whose work involves a greater degree of heavy manual handling and lifting.

The difference in the  hourly rate of pay has varied by as much as £4 per hour and,  with claims  backdated for a period of 6 years, the potential impact on a company with over 2 million employees worldwide is enormous.

These Walmart Wage Warriors are looking to follow in the famous footsteps of the legendary Dagenham Girls whose fight against another US multi-national, Ford, became the subject of a hit movie and a west end musical and paved the way for the Equal Pay Act in 1970.

Walmart have been quick to label  the allegations unfounded and have pointed out  their excellent record on equality and promoting woman in the workplace, yet to those who follow the company’s fortunes the claims will come as no surprise.

Walmart are no strangers to  allegations of misconduct  indeed  they’ve been in a long term relationship  for some considerable time. The company has  been involved in  wage law irregularities, environmental breaches,  anti-competitive practices and the type of  anti-union activity that, some might say, would not have looked out of place in Nazi Germany.

Their misdemeanours have included:

2003

Being found guilty in the  German Supreme Court  of a low cost pricing strategy designed to  undermine  competiton and obtain an unfair market advantage.

2004

Closing a store in Quebec which became successfully unionised citing “economic factors”  before being found guilty of reprisals against unionised workers by the Quebec Labor Board.

2008

Paying over $350 million to settle a group action involving workers being forced to work unpaid or “off the clock”. It was described at the time  as the world’s largest ever  settlement for wage violations.

2013

Getting  fined $82 million after being found guilty of dumping hazardous waste into sanitation drains across California.

There are numerous other examples.

Walmart are a ruthless profit making machine who stop at nothing to achieve global dominance but this time they are up against the indomitable spirit of hard working UK women who feel hard done by.

It’s the irresistible force meets the immovable object. Seconds out! Let battle commence! There’s sure to be blood on the canvas and, given the run of luck our supermarkets are having, I don’t expect it to be female.

 

 

2 thoughts on “UK Working Women Take On Walmart”

  1. Sadly they all continue to get away with exploitation whether they exploit workers – male or female – , suppliers or the farmers. They kill off local shops and town centres while playing the employment ace, not worrying about people and shopkeepers being put out of work. They build the infrastructure in front of their out-of-town stores then the councils wring their hands wondering how to revive town centres when these corporates that they allowed in were the ones who buggered it up.

    Let’s hope this is the beginning of an inexorable slide for these temples of Mammon.

    We do not will not shop at Tesco or Asda, we hate them.

    As always rant over!

    Boro to win 1 – 3 on Saturday.

    Up the Boro,

    All the best,

    John

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *