The Co-op shop workers, mostly women, say they are being underpaid compared with warehouse workers, who are mostly men.
The claim comes after similar actions against Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrisons. Retail workers claiming unequal pay at Asda overcame the latest hurdle in their legal battle which is good news for those at the other store chains too.
Law firm Leigh Day, which is representing the Co-op staff, claimed that shop floor workers – mostly women – are being underpaid compared with warehouse workers, who are predominantly men. The retail workers believe they are carrying out work of equal value to those in the warehouse.
The difference in pay between the shop floor and warehouse staff ranges from £1.50 to £3 per hour and the average shop floor employee, if successful, could be entitled up to £10,000 in back pay, Leigh Day estimated.
Chris Benson, Leigh Day’s head of employment, said staff felt they were being “underpaid for the same effort” as workers in the warehouse.
Independent experts visited Asda branches to compare the roles of workers on the Asda shop floor, who are mostly women, and those who work in the supermarket giant’s distribution centre, who are mostly men.
The tribunal, which considered more than 20,000 pages of documents, dismissed Asda’s claim that “no-one minds” if work was not done on time in the supermarket and called the idea that there was no pressure to get the shop stocked and ready to meet customer demand as “not plausible”.
GMB legal director Sue Harris said: “GMB is very pleased with the judgement handed down in respect of this stage of what is a very lengthy process. We are proud to be supporting our members in this litigation and we will continue to do so until the fight for equal pay is won in ASDA.
“We have asked ASDA to sit down with us to reach agreement on the back pay owed to our members and to ensure they are paid equally with their comparators.
“Let’s stop clogging up the tribunals and courts with hearing after hearing and sit down collectively to try and resolve these issues.
“We want our low paid members receiving the money they deserve for the job they do, sooner rather than later.”