Asda has narrowly averted industrial action by workers at its distribution depots after last-minute negotiations with the GMB union produced a deal that was satisfactory for both sides of the dispute, an Asda spokesperson told just-food today (29 June).

The GMB union and the UK unit of Wal-Mart have been at loggerheads in a long-running dispute over pay, bonuses, health and safety and collective bargaining rights at the company's distribution depots.

The five-day strike of warehouse staff, drivers and distribution workers was due to commence tomorrow and threatened to seriously disrupt supply to the retailer's outlets across the UK. Meanwhile, Asda was set to challenge the union's legal right to strike before the High Court today with accusations about "irregularities" in the ballot process. Both groups have agreed to drop their planned action.

The compromise deal agrees to establish a Distribution National Joint Council and commits both groups to twice-yearly meetings to jointly review major strategic issues facing the company. The other issues that provoked the threat of action were put on the back burner somewhat, with local negotiations scheduled to discuss collective bargaining rights at individual sites. Asda agreed to allow the union full access to all of its distribution depots.

"We're pleased to have signed an agreement acceptable to both sides to end the current dispute - good news for our customers and colleagues alike," David Cheesewright, chief operating officer at Asda, said.