A UNION representing Asda workers has issued a warning to the Issa Brothers as the Blackburn-based billionaires prepare to finalise their takeover of the chain.

The GMB union says that the new owners must assure workers that their pay and conditions will not be impacted by the change of ownership and that jobs will not be threatened.

Union officials were particularly alarmed by reports that the brothers have borrowed £3.5 billion to complete the deal and that they may be planning to sell off and lease back some of the company's assets.

GMB national officer Roger Jenkins said: “Asda workers have had a gruelling two years.

"Between the failed Sainsbury’s contract, the enforced changes to their terms and conditions and now a year of working on the frontline during the pandemic, the last thing they need is more uncertainty.

"GMB demands assurances that this multibillion pound debt will not endanger their livelihoods now or into the future."

Lancashire Telegraph:

Asda's Grimshaw Park, Blackburn branch 

The union first raised concerns about the takeover last December when they denounced plans by EG Group to sell off and lease back Asda logistics hubs as "nothing more than asset stripping."

This came after Mohsin and Zuber Issa reportedly drafted in advisors to draw up plans to sell distribution centres including Heston, Dartford, Bristol, Washington, Wakefield, Didcot and Lutterworth along with several others, which was forecast to raise over £1 billion, but which also left employees at the centres anxious about the ramifications that this could have for pay, conditions and job security.

Now, with reports that EG Group has agreed to the multi-billion pound debt financing deal and is aiming to finalise the deal by the Spring of 2021, the union is especially concerned.

Mr Jenkins said: “Asda is a profitable company that does not need to be loaded with debt.

"The Issa Brothers need to show some appreciation for the workers who make the Asda empire what it is and give assurances on their future employment and their future pay and conditions.”

EG Group declined to comment on GMB's statement, however a source said that the company was committed the growing Asda.

The source said that further details would be available once final approval had been given to the takeover by the Competition and Markets Authority.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Mohsin and Zuber Issa

Meanwhile, in a joint statement Mohsin and Zuber Issa CBE reaffirmed their commitment to Asda.

They said: “Asda is an iconic British business that we have known and loved since we were children.

"We are proud to bring its ownership back to the UK and delighted that, with the support of TDR Capital and Walmart, we can invest in its future.

"Local control means that strategic decisions will be more closely aligned with colleagues, customers and communities."

They added: "We are putting in place a robust capital structure to support that growth strategy, and we are confident that external investors will share our belief in Asda’s strong fundamentals and exciting future prospects."