UK supermarket chain Asda could face legal action from workers union GMB should it replace on-strike company workers with agency temps. However, the Wal-Mart subsidiary has denied intentions to do so.

Strike action could follow a national ballot on 21 June over Asda’s decision not to recognise negotiating rights at nine of its 24 distribution depots.

The GMB has told just-food that the retailer might be recruiting from agencies in case of possible action to break up the strike, which would breach the Employment Agency Act 2003 regulations.

A GMB spokesperson said: “We are being told that Asda is already putting in place agency staff for a situation where workers go on strike, it would be illegal for Asda to entice agencies to do this should the strike go through.

“If they are going to break law, we are not going to stand by and let them do this.”

The legal threat, which Asda describes as a “red herring” in the ongoing dispute, has been dismissed by the UK’s second biggest retailer who said there is “no truth” in the theory it is bringing in agency staff to potentially break up strike action.

Instead, a company spokesperson said that agency staff have been brought in for different instances, such as high beer sales during the world cup and for holiday cover.

Asda anticipates that strike action, should it pass the ballot, could start by the 29 June at the earliest – but hopes it can be avoided altogether. 

A company spokesperson told just-food: “We believe there is a good deal on the table and if a particular depot wants collective bargaining this could happen, because there is a process in place to get it if you want it.”