United Kingdom: GMB wins the right to collectively bargain on behalf of 569 agency workers at Marks and Spencers

On 9 February 2015, the GMB union confirmed that it had won the right to collectively bargain on behalf of 569 agency workers at retailer Marks and Spencer’s distribution centre in Swindon. The centre is owned by Marks and Spencer, and the logistics group DHL are contracted to run it. DHL in turn uses the recruitment agency 24-7 to provide workers, who are then issued with contracts under the name of TemPay, Ltd. The workers covered are agency staff employed under a scheme that the union believes has been set up to circumvent the provisions of the Agency Worker Regulations. Workers have ‘permanent’ 7-hour-per-week contracts but are given rotas for 37 hours. If they are not available every day of the rota, they can be subject to disciplinary action. Many of the workers have been engaged for a numbers of years on these terms, and the GMB believes that this practice is contrary to what is implied by the Swedish derogation. 

The ballot for recognition was conducted under the guidance of the Central Arbitration Committee, the UK public body that oversees the regulation of collective bargaining. The result was 97% in favour of GMB recognition on a 76% turnout. The union has hailed the recognition as an important step in securing better terms and conditions for workers employed in a so-called umbrella company. The GMB notes that these umbrella companies are becoming more common in sectors such as construction and logistics.

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