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Clothing & ShoesCoronavirus

Asos ‘playing Russian roulette’ with employees, says GMB Union

Asos has been accused of “playing Russian roulette with people’s lives” by the GMB Union, one of the largest trade unions in the UK and Ireland. 

The union claims that social distancing has not been enforced in the fashion retailer’s “packed” warehouses amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

It is now calling on the fashion giant to follow government advice immediately and close its warehouses “before it’s too late”. 

Some 4,000 employees continue to work at the retailer’s warehouse in Grimethorpe, Barnsley despite workers reporting that no social distancing measures have been put in place.

The site’s “complicated clocking in system” has also resulted in a large number of people gathering in a small area, and hundreds of workers taking breaks at the same time. 

GMB said that those working in the warehouse “feel government guidelines with regards to PPE and social distancing are being completely ignored”. 

Deanne Ferguson, GMB organiser, said:  “The situation at Asos is disgusting – thousands of people under one roof, not enforcing social distancing. It looks exactly like a hotbed of infection and workers are very scared. 

“Asos needs to put people before profits and make sure workers are a far distance apart and paid properly if they need to take time off. Anything else is putting unnecessary lives at risk.” 

Another GMB organiser, Mary Stump, added: “The company are quite simply putting fashion before lives. This is a company with a turnover of more than £700m, yet they insist on putting the whims of customers before the safety of their workforce.  

“Now is not the time for us to be focussing on sending out expensive fashion items to people who can’t leave the house if it means workers are being exposed to needless contamination, not to mention the risk to Net-A-Porter customers.” 

Stephanie Peacock, MP for Barnsley East, said: “I have spoken to a number of concerned workers employed at the ASOS warehouse in Grimethorpe who feel that their health is being put before profit in this national crisis.  

“It is imperative that we all do our bit to stop the spread of coronavirus, saving future lives. ASOS employs more than 4000 workers in the UK. They shouldn’t have to put theirs and their family’s well being on the line for a paycheck.”  

She added: “I have written to the CEO expressing my concern and will do all I can to make sure workers across Barnsley East are able to do their jobs in safe conditions. We should treat workers in London and the north the same.” 

Update

An Asos spokesperson has told Retail Sector: “We totally refute the allegations made by the GMB this morning. They are false, do nothing more than serve to create panic and hysteria in an already uncertain time, and are part of a continuing campaign against us and the recognised union on site, Community.

“It is simply not true to say we don’t have social distancing protocols in place and it is not true to say that we have thousands of employees working under one roof.”

They added: “The reality is we typically have around 500 colleagues working in our 680,000 square feet facility at any one time and we have strict social distancing protocols in place but, it must be said, it is also our colleagues’ responsibility to adhere to them.

“As directed by the government, we, along with other online retailers, are ensuring we are striking the right balance between keeping our warehouse operational, for the good of our employees and the wider economy, and maintaining the health and safety of staff, which is always our number one priority.”

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