A Supreme Court ruling that ASDA store workers are allowed to compare themselves to depot staff for the purposes of equal pay is ‘good’ for Sainsbury’s staff fighting a similar claim, Unite said today (Friday 26 March). 

The judgement came after ASDA appealed against a Court of Appeal ruling stating that 40,000 of its store workers, two thirds of whom are women, can compare themselves to the predominantly male depot workforce for the purposes of equal pay. 

The Supreme Court ruling does not mean the case, brought by the GMB, has been won, but does allow the claimants to take further action. 

Unite, which represents more than 6,000 Sainsbury’s staff, is proceeding with a similar claim on behalf of its shop floor members at Sainsbury’s, who are predominantly women. 

Unite assistant general secretary for legal services, Howard Beckett, said: “This ruling is good news for our Sainsbury’s shop floor members, whose claims regarding unequal pay between themselves and the supermarket’s depot staff, Unite is currently fighting.

“While this ruling does not mean the equal pay claims have been resolved for either ASDA or Sainsbury’s workers, it is an important milestone in their fight for justice. 

“As well as squarely rejecting ASDA’s legal argument on this point, the Supreme Court’s closing judgement that ‘appeals are to be discouraged’ is something we expect Sainsbury’s to heed.

“Unite will not waver in its commitment to see this legal challenge on behalf of our Sainsbury members through to its absolute conclusion.”

Unite assistant general secretary for food, drink and agriculture, Diana Holland, said: “Today’s Supreme Court ruling was a significant step forward in the long struggle for fair and equal pay. 

“During the Covid-19 pandemic retail and distribution workers have been rightly recognised as vital to society, their pay must recognise their importance.

“These cases are about the unacceptable gender pay gap experienced by women supermarket workers and will have ramifications across the retail sector. 

“Sainsbury’s should be doing the right thing by their workers rather than being forced to do so by the courts. Unite remains ready to meet with Sainsbury’s to resolve the matter.”


During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.

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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.