GMB Swindon M&S Distribution Depot Shop Stewards Visit Brussels On 21st January On Agency Workers Exploitation
MEPs made clear to the EU Commission officials that they want to work with them to sort out loophole quickly before the exploitation spreads to other countries says GMB.
Rosseby Carvalho and Domingos Dias, GMB shop stewards from Marks and Spencer distribution depot in Swindon together with Carole Vallelly GMB Regional office visited the European Parliament on 21st January.
The purpose of the visit was to explain how the “Swedish Derogation” loophole in the EU Agency Directive, which allows companies to avoid equal treatment of workers through use of permanent contracts with the agency, is abused by companies like Marks and Spencer to underpay staff.
UK trade unions, through the TUC, submitted a formal complaint to the EU Commission on this issue in September 2013. The EU Directive is very clear that Member States must ensure measures are taken to stop practices aimed at avoidance of the equal treatment rights under the directive. GMB believes this derogation is being exploited with the very aim of avoidance.
They met a senior EU Commission official for Employment, Social Legislation and Social Dialogue leading on Agency worker legislation. They also met British MEPs Siôn Simon and Clare Moody, and the leader of the Labour Party Group, Glenis Willmott. They also met German MEP Jutta Steinruck.
The Marks and Spencer Distribution Centre is now run for M&S by DHL who took over from Wincanton on 3rd January 2015. The majority of staff are employed through an employment agency called 24-7 Recruitment, but given contracts by another company called Tempay Ltd. Workers employed through Tempay earn the minimum wage of £6.50 per hour compared to the £8.50 per hour paid to workers doing exactly the same job but employed directly through DHL/Wincanton. There have been several GMB protests about how members are treated on site. See notes to editors for copies of recent GMB press releases.
Kathleen Walker Shaw, GMB European Officer, said “MEPs commended the bravery of the GMB members in raising the exploitation and abuse they and their fellow agency workers are subjected to, knowing how vulnerable agency workers are to threats of being sacked if they raise their voice.”
Domingos Dias, GMB shop steward, said “I believe that the MEPs and commission officials were shocked by the evidence we gave them of the exploitation of agency workers at our site through use of the so-called Swedish derogation of permanent contracts with the agency. MEPs made clear to the EU Commission officials that they want to work with them to sort out this loophole quickly before the exploitation spreads to other countries”.
Carole Vallelly, GMB Regional Organiser, said “we are very pleased that our members were able to give their evidence to the MEPs and EU Officials about the real world of insecurity, poverty and anxiety due to avoidance of equal treatment rights by misuse of the Swedish Derogation.
GMB has offered to provide further written evidence to the EU Commission and European Parliament to assist with the assessment of possible infringement of rights under the agency workers directive by means of this derogation.”
The ground we covered with them is as follows:
- Workers have 7 hour per week contracts, but are given rotas for 37.5 hours. If they are not available for every day of rota they are disciplined for absenteeism, but employer can cancel work days with no notice, and even send them home as soon as they arrive for work. A non-reciprocal arrangement reminiscent of bonded labour.
- The precarious nature of their employment has made staff often afraid to assert their rights, and they have suffered bullying and arbitrary management.
- At the South Marston site, some 90% of 800 non-managerial staff (agency and hirer) are non-white, but of 82 managers, only 4 are non-white.
- There is a bewildering nest of contracts. The Distribution Centre is owned and 100% dedicated to M&S, who contract DHL (previously Wincanton) to run the Distribution centre, who use a recruitment agency, 24-7 Recruitment to provide agency workers, who are given employment contracts with another company, Tempay Ltd. Tempay shares the same registered business address as 24-7. Even 24-7 senior managers cannot explain the commercial relationship with Tempay.
- The actual employer, Tempay Ltd, although it employs 2500 people has only two administrative staff for payroll. It has no managers, no HR department, and no internal structure for governance. It is a paper company that seemingly only exists for legal avoidance, whether of employment rights or perhaps tax.
- Many of the Tempay staff have worked on the same assignment, at the same site for several years. Over 75% of non-managerial staff are agency workers, but agency workers are not used to deal with fluctuating work volumes, but to lower staffing costs of effectively permanent employees.
- M&S claim to be an ethical employer. And according to their website, are signed up the living wage: http://corporate.marksandspencer.com/plan-a/policies-and-consultations/policies/clothing-and-homeware/ethical-trading . Workers for Tempay earn the minimum wage of £6.50 per hour, the living wage in the UK is £7.85.
- M&S claim to be an ethical employer but use deliberate avoidance tactics to thwart the AWR in their UK distribution chain.
- We explained what GMB wants the following for our members:
- Regulation 5 of the AWR enforced, giving equal pay with those employed by the hirer (now DHL).
- No one on site to earn less than a living wage.
- To be guaranteed contractual hours that reflect the actual hours that they work. Marks and Spencer tell us that a majority work 37.5 hours per week; but the contracts only guarantee 7 hours.
- The contracts to reflect that South Marston M&S distribution centre is their permanent place of work, instead of the legal fiction that they are moved around different assignments. Some of our members have been there uninterrupted for 7years, but are told they are temporary and transient workers: they find this demeaning.
- An end to the policy of disciplining workers for absenteeism even when they have worked more than their contracted hours.
- An end to bullying from management, for example an end to the practice of sending people home ten minutes after they start their shift.
- Affirmative action in management appointments to address the current imbalance of almost all white managers, while 90% of non-managers are BME.
- GMB wants to be able to represent our members on site. Currently all grievance and disciplinary meetings have to be held off-site if GMB is present.”.
Contact, GMB Wiltshire branch secretary, Andy Newman on 0754 0859 227, or GMB Regional Organiser, Carole Vallelly on 07912 181476 or Kevin Brandstatter 07813 207374 or Chris Watts on 01793 818 005 or Kathleen Walker Shaw in Brussels on 07841 181549 or 07776 238 327 GMB Press Office 07921 289 880
Notes to editors
Copy of recent GMB press releases.
GMB December press release:
GMB POSTPONE STRIKE BALLOT AT MARKS &SPENCER SWINDON DISTRIBUTION DEPOT AFTER REINSTATEMENT OF MEMBERS SACKED AFTER BEING SUBJECT TO RACIST ABUSE
Marks and Spencer and Wincanton must deal with racist manager and if he has not been dealt with then we will restart our campaign says GMB
GMB has agreed to postpone a consultative ballot on strike action for members employed at Marks and Spencer Distribution Centre in Swindon after the reinstatement of two members who were sacked after they were subject to racist abuse of staff by a manager.
In addition GMB has postponed the protest planned for Friday 12th December outside the Marks and Spencer store in Swindon.
On Monday 1st December, two GMB members of Indian heritage were approached by a white manager employed by Wincanton and falsely accused of talking instead of working. One of the manager said “I am going to teach you Indian bastards a lesson”. GMB members were then shut in a room, and then escorted from the site. They were then permanently excluded i.e. sacked. One of the sacked and victimised staff is Mr Domingos Dias a GMB shop steward for the site.
The Marks and Spencer Distribution Centre is run by Wincanton on behalf of M&S but the majority of staff are employed through an employment agency called 24-7 Recruitment, but given contracts by another company called Tempay Ltd. Workers employed through Tempay earn the minimum wage of £6.50 per hour compared to the £8.50 per hour paid to workers doing exactly the same job but employed directly through Wincanton. There have been several GMB protests about how members are treated on site. See notes to editors for copies of recent GMB press releases.
Carole Vallelly, GMB Regional Officer, said, “It is fantastic news that Wincanton have retracted the disgraceful sacking of two GMB members after a racist manager called them 'Indian bastards'. GMB will not tolerate racism.
I held a mass meeting today with members from the evening shift, and they have agreed to postpone the consultative strike ballot and to postpone the planned Friday protest outside Marks and Spencer.
Our members are delighted that standing strong together has secured this victory. Yesterday there was a 100% solid boycott of the Wincanton christmas lunch on the late shift by GMB members in solidarity with their sacked colleagues.
However, we do expect that Marks and Spencer and Wincanton will deal with this racist manager. We are awaiting confirmation that he has been suspended. If we find that he has not been dealt with, then we will restart our campaign."
Copy of November GMB press release
GMB PROTESTS IN OUTSIDE M&S STORE SLOUGH TUE 19TH NOVEMBER AGAINST VICTORIAN WORKING CONDITIONS AT SWINDON DISTRIBUTION CENTRE
The way M&S is acting the letters M&S could stands for Marley and Scrooge over the mean spirited way these workers are being treated over the Christmas period says GMB
GMB members, employed by Tempay Ltd at a Marks and Spencer distribution centre in Swindon, will protest outside M&S’s store in High Street Slough on Tuesday 18th November over being required to work six days every week until January with only one day off in a 14 day period.
More than 150 formal grievances have been submitted to Tempay Ltd about the Christmas work rotas, from among their 500 staff on the site.
The Marks and Spencer distribution centre in Swindon is run by Wincanton. However most of the staff are employed by an employment agency, 24.7 Recruitment. They are then formally employed through a further company, called Tempay Ltd. Workers employed through Tempay earn the minimum wage of £6.50 per hour compared to the £8.50 per hour paid to workers doing exactly the same job but employed directly through Wincanton.
The details of the protest are as follows:
From 10.15 am on Tuesday 18th November
Outside Marks and Spencer,
147 High St,
Berkshire SL1 1DP
50 protesters mainly employed by Tempay Ltd, at the Marks and Spencer Distribution Centre in Swindon will attend.
They will have a 3 metre banner reading “Marks and Spencer, ethical trading starts at home”. Some will be dressed in Victorian costumes as Marley and Scrooge, and will hand in a large placard saying “M&S Marley and Scrooge, Ghost of Christmas Past, Victorian Working Conditions”.
GMB is also calling on Marks and Spencer to address the pay inequalities between workers carrying out the same work on their behalf. The loophole in the law which allows companies to pay staff doing the same job a different wage is under Section 10 of the Agency Workers Regulations – otherwise known as the Swedish derogation. But while the practice is legal, GMB members say it is unethical and runs against the Marks and Spencer ethos. See notes to editors for GMB press release on an earlier GMB protest on this.
Andy Newman, GMB branch secretary, said “Despite the arms-length relationship that Marks and Spencer chooses to have with these workers, this is an M&S warehouse, where M&S products are stored and dispatched to M&S stores, to be sold to M&S customers to make profits for M&S shareholders.
The way M&S is acting the letters M&S could stands for Marley and Scrooge, the mean spirited way these workers are being treated over the Christmas period. GMB members accuse M&S of getting the Ghost of Christmas Past to draw up these contracts with Victorian working conditions”
Our members are saying “Bah Humbug!” to M&S. We asked M&S to sort this out, and they failed to do so, which is why our members are protesting outside the store in Slough.
The difference between how the Wincanton and Tempay workers are being treated is a miserly attempt to push down wage costs over the Christmas period, that Scrooge would have been proud of.
Marks and Spencer claim to have an ethical supply chain when it comes to their overseas manufacturing suppliers. GMB is calling for them to take the same interest in ethical business much closer to home.”
copy of GMB August press release
GMB “ABBA” PROTEST ON 13TH AUGUST AT WINCANTON CHIPPENHAM OVER SWINDON AGENCY WORKERS UNDERPAID BY £2 PER HOUR BY USE OF SWEDISH DEROGATION
Words of Mamma Mia perfectly sum up their position with Wincanton –“I've been cheated by you since I don't know when, So I made up my mind, it must come to an end” says GMB
GMB members employed by employment agency Tempay in Swindon will mount an ABBA themed protest outside the headquarters of Wincanton Logistics in Chippenham on 13th August, at 10:00 am in a dispute over pay.
At a Swindon distribution depot in South Marston, operated by Wincanton on behalf of a household name retail giant, the majority of permanent warehouse staff by employed through an agency called Tempay. Many of these staff have been working at the same site on permanent assignment for several years, but using Section 10 of the Agency Workers Regulations these staff are guaranteed only 7 or 8 hours work per week, and are paid only minimum wage. This is nearly £2 per hour pay than the warehouse staff employed directly for Wincanton.
The details of the protest are as follows:
10am on Wednesday 13th August
Wiltshire SN14 0WT
GMB members will be dressed as ABBA, with Swedish flags and placards, and there will be a photo opportunity as a GMB “corporate ASBO” is handed into the Wincanton HQ , to draw attention to the unethical use of the Swedish Derogation. They will sing words of Mamma Mia which perfectly sum up their situation with Wincanton –“I've been cheated by you since I don't know when, So I made up my mind, it must come to an end”.
GMB consider that Wincanton are unethically using Section 10 of the Agency Workers Regulations (AWR) to avoid giving effect to Section 5, relating to equal pay. Since the Agency Workers Regulations came into force in 2011, agency workers are guaranteed no less favourable treatment for terms and conditions and working conditions after completing a qualifying period of 12 weeks. However, a legal loophole under section 10, also called the Swedish Derogation, allows employers to pay less, if they guarantee a small payment between assignments.
Andy Newman, Wiltshire GMB branch secretary, said “We have around 200 GMB members out of 280 permanent staff with contracts with Tempay. Our members complain of the arbitrary management regime where individuals can be sent home or called in at the whim of supervisors, and where any raising of legitimate health and safety or other issues can lead to hours being reduced to the contractual minimum”
GMB will be presenting a corporate ASBO to Wincanton, to draw attention to the unethical use of the Swedish Derogation.
Our members feel that the words of Mamma Mia perfectly sum up their situation with Wincanton –“I've been cheated by you since I don't know when, So I made up my mind, it must come to an end”
GMB calls upon Tempay to pay our members the rate for the job, and for Tempay to go back to their client, Wincanton, and ask them to cease the unethical use of Section 10 of the AWR”.