Asda demands equal pay for UK migrant workers

Asda heaped pressure on other grocers to follow suit by insisting that suppliers pay agency workers the same rate as permanent employees, before a European directive stipulating equal pay that takes effect late next year.

Some 6,000 workers, mainly UK migrants, would win improved pay under the agreement which covers 29 leading suppliers including Asda, Britain’s second-largest supermarket.

Unite has previously blamed food retailers for fostering a “two-tier” labour system that discriminates against migrants, with agency workers,  typically from Eastern Europe or foreigners with a UK visa, are paid between 30p and £1 an hour less than permanent staff despite doing the same job.

The pay gap has created derision, with permanent staff accusing migrants of bringing down wages while temporary workers are angry they are underpaid for doing the same job as colleagues, the union said.

An Asda spokesman said the company had investigated working conditions and as a result call together all their suppliers to presented both their and Unite’s findings.

“Following our own investigation into working conditions in the meat sector, we agreed with Unite that agency workers who do the same work as permanent workers should receive equal pay, and that agency work should not be used as a means of preventing them from accessing the same rights as permanent workers,” the spokesman said.

Deputy general secretary of Unite, Jack Dromey, the result sends a clear message that one of Britain’s biggest supermarkets is determined to put ethical principles into practice.

“For years, tens of thousands of workers have paid the price of discriminatory and unfair practices and poorer conditions of employment,” he said.

The UK Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people lodge UK Immigration applications with the British Embassy.