Asda, the UK supermarket group owned by US retail giant Wal-Mart, told just-food today (28 June) that although it still hopes to avert the five-day strike called by the GMB union through legal action, it has prepared a number of contingency plans in case industrial action goes ahead.
The strike is set to commence on 30 June, in time for the England’s match in the FIFA World Cup quarter finals.
Asda, who has challenged the validity of the GMB strike ballot, is currently awaiting a High Court ruling on whether the strike is legal or not.
“We believe that certain inaccuracies invalidated the ballot process,” Rebecca Liburd, an Asda spokesperson said. Even if the court finds the strike to be legal, Asda say that the GMB’s decision to resort to industrial action does not reflect the interests of Asda workers. “The majority of our colleagues at our depots aren’t even union members,” Liburd commented.
Nonetheless, Asda is preparing for the worst and has ensured that a number of contingency plans are in place to prevent disruption to customers.
“Four of our 24 depots weren’t even balloted by the GMB so are totally unaffected, but even if the other 20 depots that have been balloted are closed down during the strike (and it’s very far from certain that they all will be closed), our stores will still continue to receive daily direct deliveries of fresh milk, bread and eggs as normal,” Asda said.
The retailer said that it has already built up stocks of essentials – soft drinks, cereals, ready meals, butter, cheeses, toilet roll, nappies and beer.
Additionally, plans for alternative means of supply for produce and fresh foods have been put in place. “In partnership with our fresh produce suppliers we’ve also launched ‘project plentiful’ which will see dozens of locally sourced vegetables delivered direct to our stores throughout the period of disruption,” the company said.
Asda declined to provide more details on its plans to secure supply during the strike “for obvious reasons”, and refused to speculate on the cost of the strike.
“Putting a figure on what it might cost wouldn’t serve any purpose at this stage,” Liburd said. “Right now we are focusing on averting the strike and, if it does go ahead, how we will avoid it affecting our customers,” she concluded.
Speaking to the Independent newspaper, an unnamed former Asda executive predicted that if the strike goes ahead it could cost the chain millions of pounds.