Supermarket chain Morrisons has been accused of penalising low-paid women workers as strikes loom at a distribution depot. 

GMB Scotland is balloting members on industrial action at the Morrisons site in Bellshill, Lanarkshire, after pay talks with cleaners collapsed. 

The staff work for contractors Atalian Servest but any pay deal is signed off by the supermarket chain. 

The union says cleaners in the offices, canteen and toilets, mostly women earning little more than the minimum wage, have been offered a lower pay rise than other workers in warehousing, logistics and transport where staff are mostly men. 

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Other contractors on the site offered between 5.5 % and 7% rises but, after earlier offers were rejected, Atalian Servest eventually offered 5% to the cleaners but made it dependent on them giving up a £600 annual bonus. 

John McCartney, GMB Scotland organiser, said members flatly refused the offer and will now be asked if they back strike action. 

He said: “Our members are angry and disappointed at how their negotiations have been conducted while watching pay deals agreed with other departments. 

“They are also very aware staff in those departments are mostly men and are rightly asking why some of the lowest-paid women whose work is crucial to the good-running of this site are being offered less than male colleagues. 

“Morrisons are not directly involved with the negotiations but hold the purse strings and should act with urgency to offer these workers a pay rise that fairly recognises their work.” 

The Herald: The action has been called by the GMB union (stock pic) 

If members vote to strike, walkouts would take place early in the New Year, a busy time for supermarkets, causing disruption on site and, if other staff refuse to cross picket lines, distribution to stores. 

The ballot on industrial action has been called days after the annual Equal Pay Day on Wednesday, marking the day in the year when, based on the gender pay gap, women overall in the UK stop being paid compared to men. 

The Fawcett Society, a charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights at work which organises the day, said the gender pay gap is currently 10.7% and falling far too slowly. 

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Jemima Olchawski, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said: “The gender pay gap must be closed and we need urgent and effective action from employers and government. 

“There are so many policy interventions that could turn the dial but the simplest of them all is making flexible work the default. 

“A lack of genuinely flexible, quality work traps women in roles below their capabilities and encourages the notion that flexible work is a privilege, not an essential part of a modern economy.” 

Morrisons has been approached for comment