A consultative ballot undertaken by the union saw 88% of Wilko workers vote that they were ready to take action up to and including strike action following the cuts.
Roger Jenkins, GMB national officer, said: “Wilko key workers are furious – and no wonder. They’ve worked through the pandemic – risking themselves and their families – dealing with a lack of social distancing, increased threats and abuse from customers.
“But GMB members at Wilko have spoken. They’ve had enough and they are ready to strike unless these insulting changes are taken off the table. GMB has contacted Wilko requesting meaningful negotiation on the sick pay agreement. If Wilko will not negotiate then strike action across Wilko is now inevitable.”
Wilko has claimed it will still operate a company sick pay policy for the first (non-Covid) absence, after that statutory applies. The group said it will also continue to support its team members most in need including anyone quarantining or absent with a case of Coronavirus, anyone with long-term sickness and the extremely vulnerable.
Early last year the retailer considered making some “necessary changes” to its policy but has since put these on hold to support its team members and concentrate on keeping the stores open as essential retailers.
An official statement from a Wilko spokesperson reiterated that the ballot result was “disappointing” and that industrial action “isn’t in anyone’s best interest at this challenging time for both retail in general and the high street”.
The company stated it has been working in collaboration with the GMB to try and tackle non-Coronavirus absence.
Jerome Saint-Marc, CEO Wilko, added: “Having unsuccessfully worked with our union to try to reduce absence we’re now changing our policy to reduce abuse of it by some team members.
“Going forwards second sickness absences in a year will be covered by statutory sick pay. This still protects our team members and the change protects customer service and the financial health of our business. It allows us to invest where we should be investing in the future of wilko and all the customers, team members and suppliers who rely on it.”