Supermarkets could face a Christmas crisis as a result of possible strikes, a union warns.
Unite the Union has predicted that a wage dispute between truck drivers and management at transportation company Eddie Stobart is likely to result in union action.
But it could affect the distribution of chips to the supermarkets, as the feud has broken out between senior bosses and workers, in the company’s northwestern distribution center in Warrington, who are dealing with the company’s Walkers Crisps account.
Unite said today that Stobart has imposed a wage freeze on its staff, in effect a wage cut in real terms that takes into account annual inflation increases, reports Liverpool ECHO.
The union believes the transportation giant is abandoning a 2019 deal that acknowledged Unite’s collective bargaining agreement.
If union actions are sanctioned, as Unite strongly expects, the strikes will start in Christmas week, resulting in a “festive sharp famine,” he said.
A strike vote opens on December 1 and closes eight days later, on December 9, with up to 40 workers walking out.
The union accused Stobart of “a series of broken promises” and warned that the outcome could lead to a shortage of Walkers Crisps over Christmas and New Year.
Last year, Unite said strikes had been averted “at the eleventh hour” after the company agreed to recognize them as a union and as part of discussions about workers’ rights.
Unite regional officer Steve Gerrard said, “Our members were designated key workers and worked throughout the pandemic and despite all their best efforts, Eddie Stobart believes it is acceptable to impose a wage freeze.
“It was Karl Marx who said that history repeats itself, first as a tragedy and second as a farce, but it is nothing funny about Stobart forgoing his agreement last year to recognize and allow Unite to do so. it is involved in wage negotiations.
“When strikes do occur and major retailers rely on just-in-time delivery systems, especially at the busiest time of the year, there will soon be empty shelves in supermarkets, where Walkers’ products can usually be found.
“Union action is always taken as a last resort, but Unite members believe they have no choice but to vote for strikes to ensure Stobart makes a fair wage offer and honors its previous commitments.
“It is not too late for Stobart’s management to stave off union action by making sense and engaging in appropriate wage negotiations, fully involving Unite and its officials and making a fair wage offer.”
ECHO approached Eddie Stobart for comment.