A UNION representing workers at a Marks & Spencer distribution centre in South Marston are taking four employers to court over allegations of unfair pay.

For months the GMB have protested on behalf of 400 workers at the DHL depot, which operates as part of Marks & Spencer’s distribution chain, who are employed by an employment agency, 24.7 Recruitment.

They are then formally employed through a further company, Tempay Ltd, and are paid the minimum wage.

But another 300 workers doing the same job are employed directly by Wincanton at a rate of £8.45 an hour – £2 an hour more.

Now, the GMB is pursuing legal proceedings on behalf of their 240 members against DHL, Tempay Ltd, 24-7 Recruitment Service and Wincanton, which operated the depot until January this year.

The proceedings come under the Agency Worker Regulations, which came into effect in 2011, which guarantee equal pay for agency workers after a qualifying period of 12 weeks.

GMB regional organiser Carole Vallelly said: “GMB has always argued that getting round the law relating to equal pay by the use of the Swedish Derogation is unethical.

"On examination of the specific contracts of employment of our members used on this M&S site, we believe that the terms of these contracts seeking to avoid equal pay are unenforceable, and the attempt by the employers to evade their responsibilities to their staff is not only unethical but also unlawful.

“Our members argue that over a period of years, the employers on this site have played fast and loose with the law, not only failing to follow the Agency Workers' Regulations, but also failing to follow TUPE regulations that protect workers when they are transferred between businesses.

“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.”

The loophole in the law which allows companies to pay staff doing the same job a different wage is under Section 10 of the Agency Workers' Regulations – otherwise known as the Swedish derogation.

The practice is legal but GMB members say is unethical, and in breach of Marks & Spencer’s code of ethics.

Carole said: “It is clear that the treatment of these workers is in breach of both M&S’ code of ethics and behaviour and also in breach of M&S’ global sourcing principles.

“M&S must question whether they have an ethical supply chain, when within their own UK distribution chain, unethical and unlawful employment practices are used.”

A spokesman for Marks & Spencer said: “Our site is operated by our logistics partner DHL. All employees are employed either directly or indirectly by DHL.”

A spokesman from DHL said: “The practice of Swedish Derogation is widespread in the logistics industry. As the matter is now subject to legal proceedings it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

Wincanton, which is no longer involved with the operation at South Marston, declined to comment. Both Tempay and 24-7 Recruitment failed to respond to the Adver’s attempts to contact them.