Delivery disruption to 1,500 convenience stores in London and south east on cards as Thamesmead drivers vote to strike
The threat of severe disruption to deliveries to more than 1,500 convenience stores in London and the south east has moved a step closer after 40 drivers, employed by Booker Retail Partners at its Thamesmead site, voted unanimously for strike action.

Unite the union is poised to issue notice to the employer for strike action, but wants to allow time for crunch talks with the bosses on 21-23 September – and the union warned that any industrial action will deepen the supply shortage crisis hitting many parts of the UK economy because of the lack of HGV drivers.

The Thamesmead drivers deliver to independent retailers under the Budgens and Londis brands.

The crux of the dispute is that the company, part of the Tesco ‘empire’, put in place a temporary £5 an hour pay uplift for about 40 drivers at its Hemel Hempstead depot because of the HGV driver shortage, but then refused to implement a similar uplift for the 40 drivers at the Thamesmead site.

Unite regional officer Paul Travers said: “This is really ‘smell the coffee’ time for the bosses at Booker Retail Partners. Our members at Thamesmead could not have sent out a clearer message – 100 per cent voting in favour of strike action.

“We are poised to issue notice for strike action very soon which will cause serious disruption to more than 1,500 convenience stores on London and the south east; however we are holding crucial talks on 21- 23 September. If those talks don’t result in a fair settlement, there will be strikes as our members are up for a long, drawn out fight for pay justice.

“This dispute has been pockmarked by very poor employment relations by the management with senior executives ‘missing in action’ at critical times and then trying to bypass negotiating procedures by attempting to offer our members a deal that would have ultimately left them worse off.

“Any industrial action will deepen the supply shortages that many parts of the retail sector are currently experiencing due to the wider issue of HGV driver shortages which are estimated at 70,000 - 100,000.

"Unite is dedicated to advancing the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and will fight back against any efforts to diminish workers' living standards."

ENDS

Unite regional officer Paul Travers said: “This is really ‘smell the coffee’ time for the bosses at Booker Retail Partners.

“Our members at Thamesmead could not have sent out a clearer message – 100 per cent voting in favour of strike action.

“This dispute has been pockmarked by very poor employment relations by the management with senior executives ‘missing in action’ at critical times and then trying to bypass negotiating procedures by attempting to offer our members a deal that would have ultimately left them worse off.”

The Thamesmead drivers deliver to independent retailers under the Budgens and Londis brands, meaning deliveries to these shops may be disrupted.

Unite the union is ready to issue notice to the employer for strike action, but is allowing time for crunch talks with company bosses on September 21 to 13.

Mr Travers added: “If those talks don’t result in a fair settlement, there will be strikes as our members are up for a long, drawn out fight for pay justice.

“Any industrial action will deepen the supply shortages that many parts of the retail sector are currently experiencing due to the wider issue of HGV driver shortages which are estimated at 70,000 – 100,000.

“Unite is dedicated to advancing the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and will fight back against any efforts to diminish workers’ living standards.”

The union warned that any industrial action will deepen the supply shortage crisis hitting many parts of the UK economy because of the lack of HGV drivers.

A spokeswoman for Booker said: “We are naturally disappointed with last week’s ballot result from our Thamesmead drivers but look forward to sitting down with their Unite representatives on September 21 and working together to find a resolution.”

(South London Press)

Lorry drivers take the wheel with strike votes

September 8, 2021 Written by Chris Neville Published in Latest News

Amid the HGV driver shortage, lorry drivers at two firms are fighting back against poor pay and conditions, reports Chris Neville
Lorry drivers who work for Tesco subsidiary Booker could soon take strike action in a pay dispute.

The drivers' union, Unite, says that Booker is using underhanded tactics in an attempt to 'hoodwink' them on pay. Two depots, in particular, have been mentioned.

At the company's Hemel Hempstead depot, Unite recently negotiated an hourly increase of £5 for drivers in an agreement reached in July. But Booker then proceeded to bypass the union and propose a new deal directly with all drivers, regardless of union membership.

Unite says that the deal will leave drivers worse off and contains stipulations for retention bonuses that are unlikely to be met. The members are angry that their terms could be decided by non-union drivers and down the road, at the Thamesmead depot, the drivers are unhappy that they never received the £5 uplift that their colleagues in Hemel got.

So now, the Thamesmead drivers have voted to strike and voted in big numbers with 100% saying yes to action. The problem for Booker is for the first time in a long time, the workers hold all the cards.

Elsewhere, drivers for Hanson are balloting for strike action after rejecting a below-inflation pay rise. Hanson contract the haulage for Castle Cement and the implications for the construction industry could be huge.

As has been widely publicised, there is a massive driver shortage in Britain. Covid and the Tories' poor handling of Brexit has exacerbated the issue but years of poor working conditions, low pay, long hours and the huge burden of responsibility on drivers mean the problems have been festering for years.

Some employers are trying to throw money at the situation but some, like Yodel, seem to be taking an almost suicidal position of digging their heels in and inflaming the situation with GMB currently balloting to strike there.

Training for a licence can take months and is an expensive process for workers to self-fund. It's also not an enticing prospect for many when the working conditions are taken into consideration.

The government has tried to manipulate the situation by extending the legal limit for hours driven and seem intent on regulatory changes to solve the crisis. They are now talking about changing the testing process to make it easier for drivers to climb from different category licences in less time.

Haulage firms and their representatives are calling for the government to relax restrictions on migrant drivers by adding the job to the Shortage Occupation List.

Both the government and the hauliers are ignoring the real issues. What we are seeing is a failure of the market to solve a huge problem that is only going to get worse in the future.

If the government was serious about this crisis, it could offer a scheme to the young and unemployed to train them for free. It could work with trade unions to ensure that drivers received good pay and pensions and that their health concerns were addressed.

Predictably, none of this is on the agenda. Instead, what we are likely to see is more industrial action as drivers rightly take the opportunity to regain some of what has been taken away under years of falling real-terms wages.

Hopefully, as has been mooted, other drivers across the UK will also seize this opportunity to turn around from the race to the bottom that workers have found themselves in for too long.

If there are widespread shortages of food, building materials and other goods as a result of industrial action then the government, the bosses and the press will try to vilify the workers as they always do.

It is our job as socialists and trade unionists to stand beside them with unconditional solidarity and then follow their lead in our own workplaces.

(Counterfire)
9 Sep 2021 - 19:44 by WDNF Workers Movement | comments (0)