Tuesday 28 September 2021 4:15 pm

Judge rules in favour of Morrisons workers in £100m fight for equal pay

Thousands of Morrisons retail staff are making progress with their £100m fight for equal pay following a new ruling at an employment tribunal.

The ruling, by judge Davies at Leeds Employment Tribunal, confirmed that Morrisons’ shop floor workers can compare their pay with the supermarket giant’s distribution centre workers.

The mostly female staff, both current and former, have been fighting for similar wages to those of mostly male workers in warehouses by claiming up to £100m in missed pay.

The supermarket had previously argued that retail staff cannot be compared to distribution centre workers when judging pay packets, because employment terms are not universal across different sites.  

Each Morrisons distribution centre has individual, collectively bargained terms and conditions, it said, adding that distribution and retail workers are not employed by the same source.

A Morrisons spokeswoman said: “The decision does not decide if retail and logistics roles are of equal value.  Morrisons pays a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work and will continue to fully defend these proceedings.”

The judge favouring the workers means the case joins an increasing number of case law supporting accusations of pay discrimination against other supermarkets, with shop floor workers typically earning £1 to £2 less than staff in depots.

More than 40,000 equal pay claims have been made by employees against supermarkets, with payouts reportedly reaching millions due to unfair treatment of staff.

Partner at CM Murray, Emma Bartlett, said: “This Employment Tribunal decision, that allows Morrisons shop floor workers to compare their terms relating to pay to workers in Morrisons’ distribution centres, allows their equal pay claims to proceed. 

“The ruling follows several important decisions, principally the Supreme Court’s recent decision that shop floor workers in Asda stores could indeed compare their pay terms to their colleagues working in Asda distribution centres. 

“The Supreme Court ruling was followed in the case heard in the European Court of Justice brought against Tesco by its retail workers seeking to establish distribution centre workers as appropriate comparators for pay purposes.”

The case will proceed to further hearings looking at whether store worker and distribution roles are of equal value, and whether there is a reason – other than sex discrimination – for the two jobs not to be paid equally.

“The pay inequality claim will seek to assert that the majority of shop floor workers are female and the majority of distribution centre roles being held by male workers, inferring that roles traditionally occupied by men are being offered on more favourable terms to those traditionally held by women,” Bartlett added.

“Equal pay claims are notoriously difficult to win, and can take many years.  The claims are therefore often brought as a group action.  These cases are important and ground-breaking for private sector employers as historically the caselaw in this area has concerned public sector workers.”