Asda employees march streets of Leeds to protest “disgusting” contract

Asda employees marched through Leeds to protest the conditions of the new “Contract 6” which is being imposed on them.

Asda employees took to the streets of Leeds for the third time this year to protest against a controversial new contract. It will see staff members lose rights such as paid breaks and will force them to work bank holidays.

Employees from all over the country, supported by the GMB, gathered at City Square yesterday to march towards Asda House, its Leeds HQ building, on Great Wilson Street.

“Contract 6” was brought in by the company in 2017 as a more “flexible” contract for Asda workers, meaning staff need to be made available at short notice about when and what times they can work.

Image of Asda employees gathering at City Square in Leeds City Centre to march in protest.
Workers gathered at City Square in Leeds before marching towards the Asda HQ. Photo: Lauren Halligan

“Stress for colleagues”

Cath Sutton, an Asda employee at the protest said: “Part of the contract is the flexibility part of it, which is causing a heck of a lot of stress for colleagues, whereby if they’ve got children, if you’re a carer for parents or children and they need medication and looking after, they can’t be flexible.

“Just in general, there’s people who live away and can’t get buses till certain times of the day and the stress it’s causing for those colleagues is very very hard.”

Image of a protester at the march holding a sign saying 'we demand a better deal'
This is the third strike by Asda employees in Leeds, with more happening across different regions. Photo: Lauren Halligan

Ms. Sutton added: “We are hoping that the company will get back round the table and discuss and try and get a better deal. We’re hoping that they’ll look fair and see that the flexibility is causing some big issues.

“We can only try and hope to goodness that the company will listen and doing these demonstrations might help.”

“Disgusting and sickening”

Further Asda workers took to a stage at City Square to speak to the crowds of protesters gathered before the march began. Among those making speeches was Alex Sobel, the Labour MP for Leeds North West, who shared his support for the Asda employees.

One man who took to the stage said: “We have been coerced, conned, misled, bullied and threatened and we are still suffering from the stress and anxiety of what Asda are doing to us in forcing us to sign this disgusting and sickening new contract. ”

An image of signs on sticks scattered about saying 'we demand a better deal' and 'Asda respect your workers'
Staff members protested for a better deal, including a higher wage. Photo: Lauren Halligan

Current staff members at Asda were also invited to the stage to share testimonies concerning their thoughts on the contract and the company itself. One woman shared with the crowd how signing a “flexible contract” would affect her and her family. She said: ” I personally look after my granddaughter and I do that so that my daughter can go out to work.

“I’m worried that if I can’t have that time off for my granddaughter, then my daughter doesn’t go out to work and it financially impacts on her.”

She ended her testimony by saying: ” Asda, respect your workers like we’ve always respected you with our long loyal hard service,” which was met with applause by the crowd.

“Contract 6” was first introduced to workers as a voluntary contract, but it is now being imposed on staff. They have been told by Asda that if they don’t sign by 2 November then they will be sacked. The company has even gone as far as to distribute leaflets to staff members who haven’t signed up yet on finding another job.

“We’ve consulted” – Asda

An Asda spokesperson told Leeds Hacks: “We have consulted extensively with our colleagues, the GMB and our own national colleague representatives to discuss their concerns and to give reassurances that we will always help them to balance their responsibilities outside of work. As a result, the overwhelming majority of colleagues have signed to this contract.

“We understand that change is never easy, but we are determined that Asda remains a sustainable business for its customers and colleagues – now and in the future.”

About the Author

Lauren Halligan
Lauren Halligan is a student journalist working as part of the Leeds Hacks team.

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