The pay logistics firms award agency staff has been brought into sharp focus after the GMB launched a legal claim against four companies involved in the operation of Marks & Spencer’s DC in South Marston, Swindon. 

The GMB is bringing a group claim against four firms on behalf of 240 agency staff at the site, who it says have been paid up to £2/hour less than directly employed staff doing the same work.

The four firms involved are DHL, which has run the site since January; Wincanton, which previously ran it on behalf of the retailer; 24-7 Recruitment Services, an agency involved in the supply of staff to the operation; and Tempay, another agency which actually employs the warehouse workers in question.

The GMB alleges that the payment of the minimum wage (£6.50/hour) to the Tempay staff is in contravention of the Agency Worker Regulations, which guarantee equal pay for agency staff after a qualifying period of 12 weeks; and also that a recent transfer of staff from 24-7 Recruitment Services to Tempay failed to follow Tupe regulations.

“GMB will not allow rogue employers to abuse their staff and we are determined to support our members’ rights by pursuing these cases through the courts,” said GMB regional organiser Carole Vallelly.

While M&S itself is not in scope of the GMB’s legal claim, it retains oversight of its supply chain. The treatment of agency staff at the site is in breach of the retailer’s code of ethics and global sourcing principles, which require suppliers to comply with all applicable employment laws and regulations, added Vallelly.

“I think it is their ultimate responsibility,” she said. “They talk a lot about transparency through supply chains and often refer to companies in other countries that supply them… We believe the same sort of scrutiny should also apply to companies in this country and we believe they should not only have to behave legally, but ethically.”

GMB’s claim, if successful, could lead to substantial damages, she added, since some staff involved have been working at the site since 2011.

A spokesman for M&S would only say all employees at the site were employed “directly or indirectly by DHL”.

DHL said that as the matter was subject to  legal proceedings it would be inappropriate to comment.  Wincanton declined to comment and neither recruitment agency was available for comment as MT went to press.