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Asda workers face the sack as contract deadline looms | Business News

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Workers at Asda are to be given “a little longer” to agree to new contracts, even though a deadline of midnight on Saturday remains in place, it has emerged.

Hundreds of employees have been reluctant to accept the deal on offer, which includes terms such as unpaid breaks.

While the supermarket chain says the “vast majority” of the more than 100,000 people affected have signed up, many are holding out and have marched on the company headquarters to voice their opposition.

Asda worker
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Thousands of employees are facing the sack

Less than 24 hours before the midnight deadline, Asda said it was giving staff “a little longer” to consider whether to sign, with a second deadline being set for 10 November.

A spokesman said: “Colleagues can still turn up to work, but anybody working after Saturday night will be doing so on the new terms, including the increased pay rate of £9 per hour, as these will be the only terms that exist in Asda.

“We have been absolutely clear throughout this process that we don’t want any of our colleagues to leave us and have worked extensively with them and union representatives to understand and address any concerns.”

Trade union GMB criticised the move, with national officer Gary Carter commenting: “This eleventh-hour delay kicks the can down the road for Asda workers who are unable to sign this punishing new contract. They now face the prospect of the sack even closer to Christmas.”

Earlier this week, Asda announced that it would raise basic hourly pay for its retail staff by 18p next April in what was seen as a final bid to entice those still on the fence to put pen to paper.

Before that announcement, Sky News had reported that up to 12,000 people were resisting the new contracts and had the backing of the GMB. Asda says this number is now down to 1,000.

The GMB says that the so-called Contract 6, which aims to simplify terms of employment across Asda, will place too much strain on families and care commitments because of greater demands for flexible working.

It described the planned pay rise as a “smokescreen” and said it showed the chain was “feeling the heat” from the row, with staff set to lose their jobs in the run-up to Christmas if they do not sign up by midnight tonight.

Asda has insisted that it does not want to lose any workers, but has refused a request from unions to remove the looming threat of dismissal.

The company, which is owned by US retail giant Walmart, has dismissed the reports that the remaining people could lose their jobs as “unsubstantiated speculation”.

Roger Burnley has written to staff, saying: “I know it has not been easy for some of you.”

He added that once the closing date passes, the company will write to anyone outstanding and offer them another opportunity to sign up “because we really don’t want any colleague to make a decision to leave and then regret it”.

Asda protest
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Workers have been protesting against the terms of the deal they are being offered

One of the employees affected by the row told Sky News earlier this month that her “children are going to suffer” if she does not sign the new contract, but said she did not approve of its terms.

Angela Leighton, who started working at Asda in 1999, said: “The number who haven’t signed is dwindling every day and to be honest that’s purely the fear factor. They’re fearful of not having a job at the end of it.

“I haven’t signed mine but I’m going to have to, otherwise I am not going to have a job.”

An Asda spokesman said the company remained committed to helping its employees balance their work life with their personal commitments.

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