A union representing workers at a distribution centre for Marks & Spencer in Swindon are set to take an employment agency, along with 3 other companies, to court over allegations of unfair pay.
The GMB have protested on behalf of 400 workers at a DHL depot, operating as part of the retail giant’s distribution chain, who are employed by a recruitment agency, 24-7 Recruitment, who are then formally employed through a further company, Tempay Ltd, and are paid the minimum wage.
However another 300 workers doing the same job are employed directly by a firm operating the depot at a higher wage – £2 per hour more.
The GMB is now pursuing legal action on behalf of their 240 members against 24-7 Recruitment Services, DHL and Wincanton, the operators of the centre until January.
The GMB are proceeding under the Agency Worker Regulations, which guarantees equal pay for agency workers after a qualifying period of 12 weeks.
Carole Vallelly, GMB regional organiser, told the Swindon Advertiser: “On examination of the specific contracts of employment of our members used on this M&S site, we believe that the terms of these contracts seeking to avoid equal pay are unenforceable, and the attempt by the employers to evade their responsibilities to their staff is not only unethical but also unlawful.
“Our members argue that over a period of years, the employers on this site have played fast and loose with the law, not only failing to follow the Agency Workers’ Regulations, but also failing to follow TUPE regulations that protect workers when they are transferred between businesses.”
A loophole in the law, known as the Swedish Derogation, allows companies to pay staff doing the same job a different wage is under Section 10 of the Agency Workers’ Regulations . The practice is legal but GMB members say it is unethical, and in breach of Marks & Spencer’s code of ethics.
Carole added: “It is clear that the treatment of these workers is in breach of both M&S’ code of ethics and behaviour and also in breach of M&S’ global sourcing principles.
“M&S must question whether they have an ethical supply chain, when within their own UK distribution chain, unethical and unlawful employment practices are used.”
A spokesman from DHL told the Swindon Advertiser: “The practice of Swedish Derogation is widespread in the logistics industry. As the matter is now subject to legal proceedings it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”