What the sale of Asda means for the Equal Pay claim

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After a lot of speculation, on Friday Asda’s owners Walmart announced the sale of the supermarket to billionaire UK brothers Mohsin and Zuber Issa and TDR Capital. Here, Lauren Lougheed, a partner in the Employment Team,  explains what this means for the Equal Pay Now Campaign. 

There has been a lot of apprehension about the potential sale of Asda, but after months of speculation, Asda is back in British ownership after Walmart agreed a sale to the Blackburn-based Issa brothers and TDR Capital in a £6.8bn deal.

Before this announcement, all had gone relatively quiet when Walmart paused efforts to sell its majority stake in Asda during the pandemic while the supermarket chain experienced massive spikes in demand.

After an increase in sales, negotiations were back on the table, showing the value of the store and, in turn, the value of its staff.

The ongoing Equal Pay Now campaign was said to be a factor in two potential buyers, Lone Star and Apollo, pulling out of the race to buy the UK’s second largest supermarket.

To us, this is further evidence that the claim that store and distribution centre workers do jobs of equal value for the supermarket is a strong and winnable one.

But what does the sale really mean for shop floor workers who say their job is equal to those in the distribution centres and they should get the same pay?

In short, the sale does not impact the Equal Pay Now Campaign.

But it’s our hope that, just as the new owners have seen the value in the business, they will also value the work of the female colleagues in their stores.

The equal pay claims became a ‘sticking point’ in the potential sale of Asda, so we hope that the new owners are committed to resolving the dispute over equal pay and do what is needed to make sure women on the shop floor are not unlawfully paid less than the men in the distribution centres.

After all, a shop is nothing without the people who ensure it runs smoothly. Who work hard every day and who are the face the face of the company.

This sale is worth big money. The total deal is valued at £6.8bn, and the Lancashire-based brothers, Mohsin and Zuber, have promised to invest more than £1bn in the business over the next three years.

If they are willing to invest this so much in the supermarket then clearly they believe in the strength of the business. In our mind, the employees are the backbone of the business and so it makes sense that the supermarket should invest in them.

We hope that the new owners feel the same, bring an end to the equal pay dispute and pay shop floor workers what they are worth.

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