Rogue employers should not be allowed to abuse their staff, and we are determined to support our members’ rights by pursuing these cases through the courts says GMB
GMB, the union for workers in the Marks and Spencer (M&S) distribution supply chain, has commenced legal proceedings on behalf of 240 members employed at the Marks and Spencer Distribution Centre in South Marston, Swindon.
Marks and Spencer own this Distribution Centre. They contract the running of the site to logistics company, DHL. They in turn recruit several hundred workers through the recruitment agency, 24-7 Recruitment Services. These workers have an employment contract through yet another company, Tempay Ltd.
DHL took over the contract to run the site in January 2015, which was previously run by another logistics company, Wincanton.
Workers employed by Tempay Ltd are employed on the minimum wage of £6.50 per hour. Directly employed DHL workers doing exactly the same work, are paid up to £2 per hour higher than Tempay staff. Many of the Tempay staff have worked on the site for several years
The legal claims brought by GMB, on behalf its members, are against all four companies: DHL, Wincanton, 24-7 Recruitment Services, and Tempay Ltd.
The claims relate to the Agency Worker Regulations, which came into effect in 2011, and which guarantee equal pay for agency workers after a qualifying period of 12 weeks. A loophole in the law, known as the Swedish Derogation, allows employers to evade these provisions for equal pay, by guaranteeing a few hours of work each week.
Carole Vallelly, GMB Regional Organiser, said
“GMB has always argued that getting round the law relating to equal pay by the use of the Swedish Derogation is unethical.
On examination of the specific contracts of employment of our members used on this M&S site, we believe that the terms of these contracts seeking to avoid equal pay are unenforceable, and the attempt by the employers to evade their responsibilities to their staff is not only unethical but also unlawful.
Our members argue that over a period of years, the employers on this site have played fast and loose with the law, not only failing to follow the Agency Workers Regulations, but also failing to follow TUPE regulations that protect workers when they are transferred between businesses. GMB will not allow rogue employers to abuse their staff, and we are determined to support our members’ rights by pursuing these cases through the courts.
The South Marston site is operated wholly for the benefit of Marks and Spencer. It is clear that the treatment of these workers is in breach of both M&S’ Code of Ethics and Behaviour and also in breach of M&S’ Global Sourcing Principles. The Global Sourcing Principles require each of M&S’ suppliers, whether of goods or services, to comply with all relevant laws and regulations relating to terms of employment.
The use of so-called Swedish Derogation contracts is also seemingly in breach of the Global Sourcing Principles which states that temporary labour arrangements must not be used to avoid obligations to workers under labour laws and regulations
M&S must question whether they have an ethical supply chain, when within their own UK distribution chain, unethical and unlawful employment practices are used. Particularly as M&S’s own policies demonstrate that they exercise oversight of the practices used in their supply chain. GMB has previously raised with M&S the practices at this site, in order to give them the opportunity to resolve them, but these malpractices continue.
The GMB call on M&S to investigate the working practices at the South Marsden site. As a matter of principle GMB believes that all staff at South Marston site, who are doing the same work, should receive equal pay, whoever they work for.”