Co-op workers win legal argument in equal pay fight

Co-op workers win legal argument in equal pay fight

Co-op shop floor workers have won a key legal argument in a battle to secure equal pay with warehouse staff.

More than 1,600 mostly female supermarket workers have been fighting for pay parity with mostly male staff at distribution centres, who are paid up to £3 an hour more.

Co-op has conceded a “comparability concession”, which will be a step towards recognising the different roles are of equal value – however, it said its workers were fairly paid.

Similar equal pay battles are ongoing at rival supermarkets Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons.

Co-op made the concession as part of an ongoing pay tribunal. Tom Hewitt of solicitors Leigh Day, which is representing the workers, said co-op staff had now “cleared the first hurdle in their claims for equal pay”.

“We hope that Co-op recognises that they can no longer deny that the work store workers do is of equal value to that of their distribution centre colleagues,” he said.

The claim began after the mostly female shop floor employees found they were being paid less than men in Co-op’s warehouses.

This made them feel they were “underpaid for the same effort”, Leigh Day said.

The law firm said Co-op’s concession was the first stage in a three step process that could see the workers reclaiming thousands of pounds of missed back pay.

The retailer will now have to show that the roles are not of equal value or that there is a genuine reason for the pay difference which is not based on gender.

A Co-op spokesman said: “Our colleagues play an important role in feeding the nation and it’s central to the Co-op’s values that we pay them fairly for the work that they do in supporting communities.

“We believe that we pay our colleagues fairly for the roles that they do, and so will continue to defend these claims.”

It is the latest of a number of equal pay fights that could end up costing grocery chains up to an estimated £8bn in back pay claims.