Aisle see you in court

I’m sure this will result in unforeseen consequences:

Supermarket giant Asda has lost an appeal in the latest development in a long-running legal dispute with staff over equal pay.

The decision means that lower paid shop staff, who are mostly women, can compare themselves with higher paid warehouse workers, who are mostly men.

The Employment Tribunal first ruled against Asda in October 2016. It said shop workers, who mainly work at check-outs or stacking shelves, could compare themselves with staff who work at warehouses.

It’s not over yet, though:

A ruling over whether the work is of equal value is likely to be in May.

There are three key stages in an equal pay case

– Are the jobs comparable?

– If the jobs are comparable, are they of equal value?

– If they are of equal value, is there a reason why the roles should not be paid equally?

I’ve worked on a shop floor and in a warehouse, and I’ve got to say I preferred the warehouse. Although the work is more physical, colder, and you have to dodge forklifts and reversing lorries, you don’t have to mind your language nor deal with idiotic members of the public. You can also goof off more easily: one of the worst things about working a shop floor is you can’t start loafing in the quiet times. Warehouse work tends to be peaks and troughs.

I expect there are women who work in Asda’s warehouses, just as there are men who work their shop floors. As Asda says:

“Our hourly rates of pay in stores are the same for female and male colleagues and this is equally true in our depots.”

The myth of the gender pay gap has long been debunked, and all but the dimmest of feminists are beginning to realise the differences in pay are down to the choices men and women make. Across the population, men are more likely to do dangerous jobs, work nights, work outside, and do deeply unpleasant jobs which women avoid – all of which attract a wage premium. So what we’re seeing now are campaigns for those jobs women choose being recognised by law as of “equal value” to those men opt for. It is quite easy to determine whether working in a warehouse carries equal value as working on the till – see which role requires the higher salary to attract suitable applicants – but this is producing the wrong result. Enter the ambulance chasers:

Leigh Day represents more 30,000 shop floor staff from the big four supermarkets – Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Morrisons – in similar cases.

This is the law firm which leads witch hunts against British soldiers who fought in Iraq. They believe the courts – rather than the market – is the true arbiter of a job’s value, and will be hoping to follow up on the success of this case, which they also brought:

A group of female workers in the West Midlands have won a Court of Appeal decision on equal pay claims.

The case involves 174 former employees of Birmingham City Council.

The women, who worked as cooks, cleaners, caterers and care staff, claimed they were excluded from getting the bonuses handed out to employees in traditionally male-dominated jobs.

Then there’s this:

It took more than six years and a hard-fought court battle for Joan Clulow, 72, and Pamela Saunders, 67, to finally receive compensation for the years they had been underpaid as home care workers.

“The pay was diabolical for what we did,” said Saunders, a carer employed by Birmingham council for 30 years.

When the council finally graded jobs, it put theirs on a par with mainly male road cleaners and refuse collectors whose wages were boosted by bonuses, shift payments and attendance allowances. “We were gutted,” said Clulow, a home carer for 25 years.

“It hurt because we worked that hard. Christmas Day, Boxing Day, night time if they needed us. We never refused,” she added.

Saunders said: “We couldn’t believe it. Don’t get me wrong, the men do work hard, but we did work hard. And I couldn’t see a lot of them doing what we do. Would they empty a commode, wash somebody down covered in mess, go into a house full of maggots and clean it up? But I’ll tell you what, I would have gone and done a dustman’s job for the day.”

Her remarks reminds me of this post, in which I noted some women don’t seem to understand exactly what “male” jobs entail. Does this Saunders really think men who clean streets and run garbage trucks couldn’t go into a house full of maggots and clean it up, or empty a commode? I think this Asda case might stem in part from the fact supermarket warehouses are no longer situated beside the retail outlets, leaving staff with little idea of what sort of work their colleagues are doing.

What will be interesting to see is how Asda and the other supermarkets handle this. If the courts rule that shop floor and warehouse work are comparable and of equal value, is there any reason why employees couldn’t be required to rotate between them? If Mrs Saunders would gladly have done a dustman’s job for a day (but for some reason didn’t switch to this more lucrative line of employment), would Janet from the deli mind humping boxes in the warehouse at 5am when the first lorry-load of vegetables comes in? I’m sure Barry who normally stacks pallets wouldn’t mind a turn on the till when the temperature drops below freezing in the yard.

We’re going to see a lot more of this, as progressives attempt to close the wage gap by equating wholly different jobs, supported by idiot judges and politicians. It will be interesting to see how the market responds, and what the unintended consequences are.

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31 thoughts on “Aisle see you in court

  1. What will be interesting to see is how Asda and the other supermarkets handle this. If the courts rule that shop floor and warehouse work are comparable and of equal value, is there any reason why employees couldn’t be required to rotate between them?

    It will probably become a necessity. Why would you want to apply for a job in a cold warehouse when it pays the same as the nice indoors (Other than having to deal with the idiot public)? As staff shortage in the warehouse appear, rotation may be the only solution if you can’t raise wages.

    It may even be more efficient to have a smaller multi-skilled work force that can be tasked as required through the day, matching peaks and troughs in demand.

    This has all the hallmarks of a “be careful what you wish for” story.

  2. The UK has a conservative government which warns against the harm from the financial illiteracy of a potential Labour government.

    And we have courts judging the Value of Labour

  3. I worked as a dustman for one day, student summer job. I snowflaked out, on day 2, just before it put me on the orthopaedic ward.

  4. TMB, sure but the ones in REWE are so crap they have a gaggle of staff hovering. The last one i used needed 3 interventions, so I only use the manned lines now, it saves me no time to be made to do the checkout girl’s job. Until they can rfid every onion they aren’t going to be able to abolish checkout staff.

  5. I worked as a dustman for one day, student summer job. I snowflaked out, on day 2, just before it put me on the orthopaedic ward.

    My brother worked the bins in Gloucester years ago and made good money doing it, mainly from all the backhanders he and his crew got from shopkeepers asking them to take commercial garbage and people asking them to clear out back yards, sheds, etc. on their way around. I think the shift was between 5am and 9am.

  6. One would have thought that one obvious solution is for Supermarket Plc to split itself into two companies – Supermarket Retailer Plc and Logistics Plc. Then staff who sit on the tills and stack shelves are retail, and people in the warehouse at the supermarket site are contract staff from the logistics side.

    If this concept of ‘equal pay’ is going to start taking off elsewhere I wonder how soon before a shop floor male dominated workforce (in say sewage treatment) make a claim that their work is as important and equal to the female dominated HR department?

  7. One would have thought that one obvious solution is for Supermarket Plc to split itself into two companies – Supermarket Retailer Plc and Logistics Plc

    That’s what I thought of too.

  8. Why don’t firms like ASDA simply install a rotational work pattern where check-out staff work in the warehouse on alternate weeks and warehouse staff do the tills? This would justify their equal pay. I wonder which group would complain first?

  9. And…there’s an advert for jobs at a thing called OFCPP Compliance after the last comment.
    I’m afraid to ask.

  10. Street sweepers get rained on, office cleaners don’t – off course Street sweepers should be paid more. Just go outside in February and you will understand why.

  11. …is there any reason why employees couldn’t be required to rotate between them?

    The employer isn’t going to assume the inefficiencies of swapping employees around to vastly different jobs just to make a point. More likely the outcome will be not very different from minimum wage hikes: shop jobs will become more desirable relative to warehouse jobs. With no way to distinguish equally qualified candidates through wage competition, hiring decisions will be made essentially on the basis of luck of the draw or connections to management. Inevitably that will draw in some number of people (men) who would have otherwise accepted a warehouse job at the uniform wage, at the expense of women who would not. Those will have to seek employment elsewhere.

    Having drawn labor out of the warehouse pool and moved it into the shop, one or both of two things will happen: the company will have to innovate ways to reduce labor demand until the warehouses can be fully staffed from the original labor pool (less the now unemployed shop staff), or they will have to raise the uniform wage to pull labor from other markets.

    It goes without saying that costumers will be the ones financing all of this wonderful justice.

  12. The place this ends, you need to remember, is in total equality of outcome for all. That is what the tabula rasa socialists believe can and must happen. All inequality is socially constructed.

    I can see the merits. Perhaps I should be randomly allocated to the job of playing centre-half for Manchester City, while Wayne Rooney gets randomly allocated to do my job. The only winner from that situation is, of course, me. Except even I would probably get tired of having my congenital ineptitude at ball games on display. Both my customers and the City fans lose out. Mr Rooney certainly does as well.

  13. I see two possible outcomes.

    Option A – tellers’ wages are raised to match the warehouse. Lots of men apply for these positions. They are more willing to work late shifts, and so forth, and push the women out of the job market.

    Option B – tellers’ wages are raised to match the warehouse. Automated tellers (meaning the customer does the teller’s job) now become profitable, and all the women are fired.

    Either way, the professional feminists’ will have enough employment for another generation.

  14. @Jonathan: don’t forget the other consequence – getting people to work in the warehouse (cold, heavy lifting, maybe unsociable hours) becomes harder and harder, yet they can’t offer more wages………

  15. As others note, if the pay is the same, I can’t see any reason the supermarkets would not then be free to shuffle people from checkout and warehouse as required. That extra flexibility certainly justifies a higher pay rate.

    The supermarkets can then offer an ‘opt out’ of the warehouse work for a slight reduction in rate.

  16. “Leigh Day” – why was I not surprised to see this bunch of scum involved?

    They need shut down, struck off and bankrupted same as Phil Shiner and PIL

  17. @Jim on February 1, 2019 at 11:17 am

    “Supermarket Retailer Plc and Logistics Plc” + 1

    Most Logistics already outsourced, the warehouses should go now, before judgement – TUPE

  18. @Pelican on February 1, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    It goes without saying that costumers will be the ones financing all of this wonderful justice.

    +1 Well said

  19. @ AJ – “But does the court agree that”…

    This reminds me of a live matter that my firm are getting advice on, which I think is totally unnecessary. The advice came back on Wednesday along the lines of:

    “The court would take a dim view on…….”

    The trick that has been played here is that there is less than a 1% chance that this matter would ever get before the courts as neither party would ever bring it to court, no harm would ever be suffered by anyone and it is a civic thing that has nothing to do with the Old Bill, people, employees, money or false representation.

    So the slick lawyer has taken the situation and described it out of all proportion and put his clients fearful mind into a court situation. This achieves two things for the lawyer, he justifies his hefty fee for this advice which took two weeks to obtain and secondly he can also provide further assistance in assuring that if it were to go before the courts then he could also do such and such to ensure that they would not take such a dim view. He has sold him on the before the courts bit.

    Its a complete scam, I dont blame the lawyer either, its the stupid MD that doesn’t understand risk and has commissioned a lawyer to make it go away.

    Thank fuck I am leaving them.

  20. Four verse Limerick warning

    Jeanette and John did work at Asda
    To where they both drove in a mazda
    He packed frozen mutton
    she sold bows and buttons
    Ten pound an hour they cashed her

    Each hour he slaved was paid Thirty pound
    For freezing and lifting on the cold ground
    Inside warm and dry, outside she no go
    Union boss say her wage is too low
    Pay her like him you cheap corporate hounds

    Bluddee hard he does work in the cold
    The company to the union did told
    Then to court you corporate jerks
    Pay her not by how much she does work
    But Judge say no rise, her wage for to hold

    Now on week days she works the shop front
    And for his high wage does she still hunt
    He loads to the shop rear
    Then goes home to drink beer
    Coz of hard work he does bear the brunt

    (That lame last line is not the original – there was another, totally different, which rhymed rhythmically and beautifully with front and hunt, alas the dog ate it)

  21. I own a drinks company in NZ, and the supermarkets and logistics for one of the local supermarket duopoly are separate companies owned by the same people.

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  23. ““The pay was diabolical for what we did,” said Saunders, a carer employed by Birmingham council for 30 years.

    It was diabolical, but you did it for 30 years? You didn’t apply to the road sweeping department in all that time?

    The thing with jobs is it really doesn’t matter why some people earn more or less. That’s the market. And even government broadly gets this right at the lower end. The private sector equivalents are child minders and people who make roads for private companies and they have some big pay differences.

    You want to know the real difference? It’s that men are nearly all about the money and women aren’t. Women value things like familiarity, social purpose, regular hours, safety, politeness, the social life at work. A lot of corporate CSR bullshit is aimed at customers, but it’s also aimed at women who work there. Women love that they had a Macmillan coffee morning or Red Nose Day event at work, and far beyond the couple of hours they got off.

    It’s why so few women escort or work down the sewers sorting out fatbergs. A lot of women would not do those jobs despite the pay. They’d much rather be on minimum wage at the local animal sancturary.

  24. It would amuse me greatly to see women who approve of what their lawyers are doing getting 16k payouts and then seeing their Universal Credit or Housing Benefit being stopped.

  25. @Bloke on M4 on February 2, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    +1

    Number of women that have told me “I wouldn’t do …. for any wage” – lost count.

    On a student summer job I was “Freezerman” in veg plant, meant going into -30c blast freezer every 20mins for 5-10 mins to agitate peas, then defrost & hose down every six hours.

    Girls & some wimpy (now snowflake) guys preferred pre-freeze assembly line inspection to hard/cold work. I earned more and was offered overtime & promotion.

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