Deliveries of nation's favourite beer at risk

Deliveries of nation's favourite beer at risk

29 August 2013

Crucial talks to avoid severe disruption to the deliveries of Fosters, Heineken, Kronenbourg, John Smith’s, Strongbow plus Britvic soft drinks, to almost 30,000 drinking establishments across the UK will take place today after workers for KNDL (Kuehne + Nagel Drinks Logistics) overwhelmingly voted for strike action.

In the event talks fail today Unite will prepare to name dates for action. Pubs and premises run by Enterprise Inns, Trust Inns, Wetherspoons, and Wells and Young’s would be badly affected. The company also supplies airports, courts, sports clubs, including Premiership football clubs, recreational centres, theatres and cinemas, health clubs, military camps, working men’s clubs and the hospitality industry.

The issue at the centre of the dispute is the way the company has breached the 'National Ways Agreement' which governs the terms and conditions of the workforce. The workers believe the changes being proposed will lead to significant jobs losses. 

Unite’s repeated attempts over the last four months to rectify these breaches have been met with intransigence by the management and, as a last resort, workers have voted by 85 per cent in favour of strike action on a turnout of 64 per cent. The union balloted 970 drivers, drayman and warehouse members.

The depots affected include: Aberdeen; Bathgate (West Lothian); Birmingham; Bristol; Chandlers Ford (Hampshire); Carlisle; Croydon; Dagenham; Devizes (Wiltshire); Dundee; Faversham (Kent); Greenford (Middlesex); Inverness; Liverpool; Manchester; Newark (Nottinghamshire); Northampton; Norwich; Plymouth; Preston; Reading; Stockton-on-Tees (Cleveland); Swansea; Wakefield; Warrington; Washington (Tyne and Wear); and Welwyn Garden City.

In a restructuring exercise called the Beethoven Project, KNDL wants to introduce three super hubs at Livingstone (West Lothian), Thatcham, near Newbury, and Wakefield from which beer, cider, lager and soft drinks will then be distributed to the above depots.

At present the 29 depots (those above and including Anglesey and Hereford which will be affected by the changes, but operate on different contracts) hold a supply of stocks that they can quickly and efficiently deliver to the pubs and licensed premises in their locality. 

Unite said that the downsides to this proposal include:

  • Supplies could be delayed by accidents/disruptions on the motorways
  • The beer could be unsettled by the long journeys
  • It is environmentally unfriendly, necessitating more HGV journeys on already overcrowded roads
  • KNDL will be spending £2 million more on diesel each year
  • It increases the chances that publicans will not receive the deliveries they have ordered at the time they wanted
  • There are already cases of publicans being highly dissatisfied with this service
  • It removes flexibility and speed of response to demands that the local depots currently provide

Unite national officer Rhys McCarthy said: "Our members take pride in their jobs and they know that the present system for delivering beer has worked well for more than a century. It provides high levels of customer satisfaction; is responsive and flexible and ensures that the beer is not unsettled by long journeys.

"The changes being pushed through will not work. They will eventually lead to job losses and will cause enormous problems in delivering to customers. For drinkers up and down the country it could even affect the quality of the beer.

"We have tried to engage with the company but it has repeatedly refused to resolve this dispute. The company now has a final chance otherwise the union will be forced to name dates for action which could seriously disrupt the supplies of the nation's favourite beers and soft drinks."


Contact Ciaran Naidoo on 07768 931 315

Notes to editors: 

A question and answer briefing on the dispute is available on request from the press office.

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland's largest trade union with 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.