Dray Drivers Prepare for Strike Action as More Workers Demand a Bigger Claim on the Product
Around 1,000 draymen, who deliver brands such as Heineken and are responsible for about 40 per cent of deliveries to pubs, are to walk out in the first of two 24-hour strikes. The first 24-hour strike will start 10am on Tuesday, August 24, with the second commencing from 10am on Thursday, September 2, according to Unite. This will be accompanied by an overtime ban and work to rule starting on August 24 and continuing to Monday, November 15.

The dray drivers voted for industrial action on August 11 after receiving a paltry pay offer, threatening supplies of beer in the late summer, reports Unite [1].

GXP Logistics Drinks [2] offered drivers 1.4% for 2021, considerably below inflation. For comparison, RPI currently stands at 3.9%. Taking their stand in response that there can be no government-inspired “business as usual” with such low pay offers as workers face increased costs of living, the drivers, members of Unite, voted overwhelmingly for industrial action: 97% for strike action and 99% for action short of a strike. Their stand is to oppose being forced to make concessions over their claim on the product. The opposite should be the case – the basic rate for the job must increase substantially.

During furlough, many workers suffered effective pay cuts due to the level of furlough pay being low compared to the pay when working. Further, the loss of fringe benefits, such as overtime rates, has meant a reduction of between £8,000 and £10,000 over the past year. Unite had apparently offered a “manageable” inflation increase, which the company rejected.

“Our members have suffered great financial hardship during the pandemic with some of them losing up to £10,000 through being furloughed and picking up no overtime, so it is no surprise that they have voted almost unanimously for industrial action. Our mandate for such action is resounding and reflects the deep anger felt by our members over their treatment by the bosses,” said Unite national officer for the drinks industry Joe Clarke, adding that “the draymen have been working flat out currently to meet the high demand for beer volumes in our pubs as society continues to reopen.”

“Now industrial action looms for late August, we call, once again, for the company to engage in meaningful negotiations regarding a decent pay increase for our members,” he said.

By not engaging in meaningful negotiations in the collective bargaining process, the company considers the workers should have no say over their dignity in labour and also should have no control over their rights to a decent livelihood. Yet this very struggle has been the historic battle for workers in Britain, whose stand is to oppose any attempt to turn the clock back or compromise on the matter.

The drivers should be seen in the context of hauliers and all involved with logistics and distribution of the social product, which is essential work. Failure to look after supply and distribution caused problems such as supermarket shelves becoming understocked.

Pay claims are becoming the order of the day particularly since the beginning of pandemic. The privileged few who own and control companies, the competing privately-owned parts of the socialised economy, have actively widened the pay gap [3] by increasing their expropriation of added-value from the new value workers produce to the detriment of workers’ pay, which is the reproduced-value workers receive in exchange for their capacity to work. The pandemic has left many workers struggling to make a living. Workers across the spectrum are now pushing forward wage demands to close the gap, which eventually must be closed entirely. The fundamental change in the direction and essential nature of the economy required to achieve this can only come from working people organising in and for themselves, with the aim of socialising ownership and control of the essential sectors, removing these private competing interests that are attacking workers’ claims on the fruits of their labour.

As things stand, the proportion of all added value to the product is disproportionately claimed by the owners of the means of production. This claim by the company is for their property rights, which trumps the rights of the workers in their claim. This situation should be reversed, putting the interests of those that produce to maintain themselves and their families first.


[1] Unite the Union, “Threat of ‘beer drought’ mounts as GXO draymen vote to stage industrial action over ‘paltry’ pay offer”, August 11, 2021

[2] According to Unite, GXO Logistics Drinks Ltd (previously XPO Logistics Drinks Ltd), are based at 26 sites and are responsible for about 40% of beer deliveries across Britain, for leading brands such as Heineken.

GXO Logistics was spun off from XPO Logistics this month. It is the largest third-party contract logistics provider globally. XPO Logistics is itself a global monopoly formed from the buying and merging of companies by American businessman Brad Jacobs, beginning with Express-1 Expedited Solutions in 2011. (Source: Wikipedia.)

[3] See, for example:

Unison, “Now is the time – have your say on pay”, August 3, 2021
23 Aug 2021 - 17:40 by WDNF Workers Movement | comments (0)