Scottish unions welcome tribunal ruling on formal recognition for Lidl workers

GMB defeats supermarket’s attempt to prevent workers from having union representation

THE GMB trade union is hailing a landmark legal victory over German-owned Lidl preventing the low-cost supermarket from stopping employees gaining formal union recognition.

The Central Arbitration Committee (CAC), the independent tribunal with statutory powers over trade union recognition, dismissed the supermarket chain's attempts to block its warehouse operatives employed at the company’s Bridgend distribution centre from having a union to represent their views and concerns.

The GMB's legal defence means that the right of members to negotiate pay and terms and conditions within the company have been confirmed as a result of the supermarket’s court objections being thrown out. 

"But also although it is too early to say, the threat to workers here and from elsewhere is real." Ann Henderson, STUC

The union has called for a ballot to be organised "as soon as possible" so that warehouse operatives can now decide whether the GMB should be formally recognised as their union for collective bargaining for workers at Lidl’s distribution centres.

Other trade unions in Scotland welcomed the ruling. Ann Henderson, assistant secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), told CommonSpace: "We are certainly pleased with the outcome of this legal action and see it as a positive thing.

"Trade union recognition is the foundation and starting point really of the ability to collectively bargain with employers.

"It is so important - given the context of the vote for Brexit and the risk to workers rights. We already know that some sectors are under specific and special strain from having a large workforce from oversees.

"But also although it is too early to say, the threat to workers here and from elsewhere is real."

"Lidl’s attempts at union busting were quite properly thrown out by the judge in a massive victory for rights at work." Justin Bowden, GMB

The parent company of Lidl is registered in Germany, yet the supermarket has expanded to having 637 stores and nine regional distribution centres across the UK and it employs more than 18,000 people.

The company’s also has an ambitious UK expansion plan that could see it double its size, with plans for 1,500 stores in the future for the UK.

In a released statement, Justin Bowden, GMB national secretary, said: "Lidl’s attempts at union busting were quite properly thrown out by the judge in a massive victory for rights at work. 

"Today’s ruling opens the gates to not only improving employees’ pay and terms and conditions at the Bridgend site, but is also a major victory for the GMB’s campaign for a trade union voice at the workplace."

Lidl announced a record turnover of over £4bn in the last financial year, up by 21 per cent in one year alone.

It increased its sales in the UK and also boosted its exports of UK products across the European Union, including £30m of UK origin cheese and £100m of Scottish whisky.

"Today’s ruling opens the gates to not only improving employees’ pay and terms and conditions at the Bridgend site, but is also a major victory for the GMB’s campaign for a trade union voice at the workplace." Justin Bowden

The store currently enjoys a record 3.9 per cent market share of the supermarket business according to its own industry data published last September.

Additionally credit rating agency Moody's predicted last September in their market assessments that the combined market share of Lidl and Aldi could hit 15 per cent by 2020, challenging the market dominance of the so called 'big four' - Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons.   

From October 2015, Lidl has become the first UK-based supermarket to implement the minimum wage as recommended by the Living Wage Foundation with Lidl UK employees earning a minimum of £8.20 an hour across Scotland and £9.35 an hour in London.

Picture courtesy of Kristian Bjornard

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