Women celebrate victory in Asda equal pay bid: ‘Made in Dagenham’ case paves way for shop workers to earn same as male warehouse staff
- The Supreme Court ruled that lower-paid staff who work on the shop floor can compare themselves with higher-paid workers in warehouses
- This has been a contentious issue and the 44,000 claimants in the case argue it is sexist
- The case has been dubbed ‘Made in Dagenham for the 21st century’ – in reference to the famous strikes by women at the Ford factory in the 1960s
Thousands of women who work at Asda are celebrating after victory in a long-running equal pay lawsuit against the supermarket.
The Supreme Court ruled that lower-paid staff who work on the shop floor can compare themselves with higher-paid workers in warehouses. This has been a contentious issue and the 44,000 claimants in the case argue it is sexist.
Most of those who work in supermarkets are women and receive up to £3 less an hour than those who work in depots – who are mostly men. The case has been dubbed ‘Made in Dagenham for the 21st century’ – in reference to the famous strikes by women at the Ford factory in the 1960s.
Driving change: Asda shop floor workers who are often paid less than those working in depots
Wendy Arundale, who worked at Asda for 32 years, said: ‘I loved my job, but knowing that male colleagues working in distribution centres were being paid more left a bitter taste. It’s not much to ask to be paid an equal wage for work of equal value.’
There is still a long way to go, as yesterday’s decision does not mean the women behind the lawsuit have won the right to equal pay. But it means they are now free to take further action against Asda to demand changes.
The next hurdle will be to prove that their work is of equal value in terms of skills and training to those who work in depots.
If judges rule this is the case, a tribunal would then weigh up if there were reasons other than sexism behind the pay rates. If the claimants win the case, they could be in line for £10,000 to £20,000 in compensation each and Asda could have to pay out hundreds of millions of pounds.
The company, which is one of Britain’s ‘Big Four’ supermarkets, argues it has already paid the right rate for the job and that both men and women work in supermarkets and warehouses.
Champion: Sally Hawkins stars in Made In Dagenham
The case will be a blow to Asda’s new owners, the billionaire Issa brothers, who completed their £6.8billion takeover last month from US grocery group Walmart.
The Supreme Court’s decision could also have a knock-on effect for other firms and could cost the industry an estimated £10billion. It has been closely watched by Asda’s rivals, including Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s, which are all facing equal pay claims.
Battles over pay have also hit other sectors – with Deliveroo and Uber workers wrangling in court about their rights.
Anne Pritam, partner and employment lawyer at Stephenson Harwood, said: ‘It would be difficult to underestimate the significance of this judgement which will send shock waves far beyond Asda.’ Pritam added: ‘It is a watershed moment for the rest of the retail industry.’
The GMB Union, which has members who are taking part in the case, said it was ‘amazing news and a massive victory for Asda’s predominantly women shop floor workforce’.
An Asda spokesman said: ‘This ruling relates to one stage of a complex case that is likely to take several years to reach a conclusion. We are defending these claims as the pay in our stores and distribution centres is the same for colleagues doing the same jobs regardless of gender.’