Shop floor workers at supermarket chain win legal argument in equal pay fight

Shop floor workers at supermarket chain Co-op have won a key legal argument in their fight for equal pay.

More than 1,600 Co-op workers, represented by law firm Leigh Day,  have taken action against the Manchester-headquartered group over complaints that they are being paid less than colleagues in the firm’s distribution centres.

The shop-workers, mainly women, have said they should receive pay similar to the mostly male distribution colleagues, who were paid between £1.50 to £3 more an hour.

The Co-op has now conceded a “comparability concession” in the case, a step towards recognising the different roles are of equal value.

However, the supermarket group said it will continue to defend itself against the claims and believes it pays workers “fairly”.

Tom Hewitt, a solicitor in the employment team at  Leigh Day, said Co-op staff “have 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.

A spokesman for the Co-op 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.”

The battle against the Co-op for equal pay comes after a raft of similar legal cases, including at rivals Sainsbury’s and Morrisons as well as retailer Next where it was also decided that store workers could be compared with distribution staff.

Last year thousands of Tesco workers also won a legal argument in their fight for equal pay and a landmark judgment was also handed down by the Supreme Court which confirmed that Asda shop floor workers can compare their roles to those of their colleagues in distribution centres for the purposes of equal pay.

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