Asda hits back after Jeremy Corbyn accuses it of ‘exploiting’ its workforce

Jeremy Corbyn launched an extraordinary assault on big business last night, naming Britain’s second biggest supermarket chain as one of five firms which had ‘exploited’ workers.

The Labour leader accused Asda – along with Amazon, Sports Direct, Uber and the outsourcing giant ISS – of having ‘ripped off and dehumanised’ their staff.

The party accused Asda of forcing staff to sign a more flexible contract which means they will not be paid for breaks.

Mr Corbyn’s attack on Asda came as he published his party’s new work manifesto, which involves extensive new powers for trade unions. He said: ‘The Conservatives are on the side of bad bosses who have exploited, ripped off and dehumanised workers’

Mr Corbyn said that, under Labour, companies will be obliged to pay people for their breaks during shifts.

But last night Asda hit back, saying it ‘entirely rejected’ the claim that it was one of the country’s worst employers – pointing out that it had given its 120,000 workers a pay rise.

And the criticism opened Labour up to claims of hypocrisy as last week it emerged workers at a Labour call centre had been told they would lose their jobs after Christmas.

The party accused Asda of forcing staff to sign a more flexible contract which means they will not be paid for breaks. Mr Corbyn said that, under Labour, companies will be obliged to pay people for their breaks during shifts

The party accused Asda of forcing staff to sign a more flexible contract which means they will not be paid for breaks. Mr Corbyn said that, under Labour, companies will be obliged to pay people for their breaks during shifts

Mr Corbyn’s attack on Asda came as he published his party’s new work manifesto, which involves extensive new powers for trade unions.

He said: ‘The Conservatives are on the side of bad bosses who have exploited, ripped off and dehumanised workers. We’ll call time on insecure and unsafe work that leaves people without the rights and dignity they deserve.

‘We’ll call time on discrimination in the workplace that leaves women vulnerable to harassment and unequal pay. And we’ll call time on the running down of workers’ rights to organise collectively to boost their pay and improve their working conditions.

‘It’s workers who are the real wealth creators. Labour will be on your side.’

Labour said that alongside Asda, Britain’s worst offenders include Amazon, where the party says that last year ambulances were called to a warehouse once every two days.

It also singles out Sports Direct, claiming that employees have reported being promised permanent contracts in exchange for sexual favours. The party also criticised outsourcing giant ISS for failing to respect basic rights or pay its workers properly; and minicab firm Uber for failing to pay the minimum wage.

Labour said Asda had also forced employees to work bank holidays and weekends or face the sack in the run-up to Christmas.

Mr Corbyn said that, under Labour, companies will be obliged to pay people for their breaks during shifts. But last night Asda hit back, saying it ¿entirely rejected¿ the claim that it was one of the country¿s worst employers ¿ pointing out that it had given its 120,000 workers a pay rise. Asda workers are pictured above protesting in Leeds over contract changes

Mr Corbyn said that, under Labour, companies will be obliged to pay people for their breaks during shifts. But last night Asda hit back, saying it ‘entirely rejected’ the claim that it was one of the country’s worst employers – pointing out that it had given its 120,000 workers a pay rise. Asda workers are pictured above protesting in Leeds over contract changes

They said Asda bosses coerced employees to sign the new contract by telling those who are yet to sign the contract they will not be paid for any sick leave until they did and giving ‘find a job’ leaflets to staff who would not sign new contracts. A spokesman for the supermarket chain said the contract changes merely brought Asda into line with competitors such as Sainsbury’s.

‘We entirely reject these claims about our contract and employment status, which are absolutely at odds with both how we operate our business or the regard in which we hold our colleagues,’ he said.

‘Despite the huge pressures facing our sector, we have worked to give a pay increase to almost 120,000 of our retail colleagues in return for a degree of flexibility that is standard in our industry and ensures fairness for all our colleagues. Our contracts include a market-leading benefits package – which offers a colleague bonus and Sharesave scheme – and we do not use zero-hour contracts.’

A spokesman for Amazon said Labour’s claims were ‘false’ and added: ‘Despite sharing the facts with the Labour Party on numerous occasions, they’ve chosen to ignore them.

‘Some reports are attempting to sensationalise ambulance calls to Amazon by reporting numbers that include both personal and work-related health reasons.

‘In the UK fulfilment centres ambulance calls occurred at a rate of 0.000003 per worked hour, which is dramatically low.’ 

An Uber spokesman said: ‘Drivers are at the heart of our service and thousands of people come into work at Uber every day focused on how to make their experience better, on and off the road.

‘Whether it’s being able to study for an undergraduate degree with Uber Pro or stronger insurance protections, we’ll continue working to improve the experience for and with drivers.’

An ISS spokesman said: ‘ISS is a responsible employer.

‘ISS has always operated with integrity and in line with all appropriate local legal requirements to ensure all its employees are paid fairly and competitively.’ Sports Direct did not respond to requests for a comment.

Labour’s work manifesto includes a pledge to end ‘bogus self-employment’ and ban zero-hours contracts.

The party promises to repeal anti-trade union legislation, allow greater collective bargaining, and create a Workers Protection Agency with powers to inspect workplaces and bring prosecutions on workers’ behalf.

Labour has also claimed that it will give everyone full and equal rights from day one at work. 

Labour said that alongside Asda, Britain¿s worst offenders include Amazon, where the party says that last year ambulances were called to a warehouse once every two days. An Amazon worker is pictured above [File photo]

Labour said that alongside Asda, Britain’s worst offenders include Amazon, where the party says that last year ambulances were called to a warehouse once every two days. An Amazon worker is pictured above [File photo]

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