Trade union Unite has announced a number of industrial actions that could hit stock levels and deliveries to customers over the festive period, with strikes by a fleet of DS Smith LGV drivers and Wincanton Rochdale distribution drivers planned for December.
There could be nationwide shortages of chilled foods at Asda stores as around 80 HGV drivers, employed by Wincanton on the Asda contract, walk out over the Christmas period over pay. Unite said the drivers are angry at being paid £1.24 an hour less than their counterparts doing the exact same role for Asda at the Lutterworth distribution centre in Leicestershire.
Furthermore, the Rochdale drivers’ overtime, night, weekend and bank holiday rates are also less than those paid at Lutterworth.
Unite regional officer Paul Lomax, said: “Asda shoppers will be disappointed that shelves could run bare during the festive period, but this is entirely the fault of Wincanton and Asda for denying our members’ pay parity.
“Strike action can only be avoided if Wincaton makes a vastly improved offer, the ball is now firmly in its court.”
The drivers will strike on 13, 15, 17, 20, 26, 28 and 30 December and 02 January, causing shortages at Asda stores across the country. More strikes will be scheduled if the dispute is not resolved.
A separate strike by a fleet of DS Smith LGV drivers delivering packaging cardboard and paper to major retailers, including Amazon, has also escalated to cover the entire Christmas period.
Unite explained that this strike will compromise the ability of DS Smith clients, which also include Direct Wines, Cadbury and Haribo, to package items for mail order delivery to customers during the festive season.
The drivers, based in Launceston in Cornwall, Sittingbourne in Kent, Avonmouth in Bristol and Tuxford in Nottinghamshire, have rejected a 5% pay offer.
An initial seven days of strikes took place between 20 and 27 November. The next round of strike action begins today [11 December] and lasts until 23 December.
Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “DS Smith has huge profits and can well afford to give these drivers a fair pay rise. The company’s refusal to do so is just sheer corporate greed. Unite’s top priority is our members’ jobs, pay and conditions and the workforce at DS Smith have their union’s complete support.”
In addition, the drivers pick up recycling at distribution centres for Tesco, Morrisons, Aldi, Lidl, Coop, Asos, Biffa and Veolia. Unite stressed that a large pileup of uncollected cardboard will cause significant disruption to the Christmas operations of these companies.
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