Supermarket customers in the North West and Midlands could face a pre-Christmas ‘bread drought’, if drivers at the Kingsmill bakery in West Bromwich, who deliver 1.5 million loaves each week, go on strike in a pay dispute.
About 130 drivers, maintenance staff and security personnel, members of Unite, the country’s largest union, are being balloted this week for strike action in a dispute over ‘a paltry pay offer’. The ballot closes on Monday 27 November.
The Birmingham Road site produces 1.5 million loaves a week, as well as rolls, muffins and toasties, and if there is a strike before Christmas, the regions which will bear the brunt of the 'bread drought will be the east and west Midlands, and the North West.
Bakery bosses have offered a two per cent pay rise, plus £150 for the year starting April 2017 and the same offer for the year starting April 2018. Kingsmill is owned by the highly profitable ABF Grain Products Ltd.
Unite is highlighting the fact that Kingsmill drivers earn between £26,000 and £28,000-a-year, while drivers employed by Sainsbury’s are on £42,000 and those working for Culina take home £33,000.
The union has also identified that drivers at the company’s Stockport depot earn £1,500-a-year more than those at West Bromwich, throwing up serious ‘equal pay’ issues.
Unite lead officer for the food sector Joe Clarke said: “What we have here is a highly profitable global company paying our Kingsmill members well below what competitors are paying their drivers for the same work.
“In some cases, the differential is as much as £14,000-a-year which is totally unacceptable.
“Then it has the nerve to add insult to injury by offering a paltry pay deal far below the current rate of inflation. Our members want a fair offer that reflects the cost of living.
“A strike could cause havoc to bread deliveries to supermarkets, such as Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco, across the North West and the Midlands, as 1.5 million loaves a week won’t be delivered.
“Customers of major supermarkets in these regions seeking bread and other bakery products in the run-up to Christmas could be faced with bread shortages.
“So you will have a situation where loaves will be coming off the production lines, but no one will be delivering them.
“There will be ‘bread mountains’ at the West Bromwich depot, but a ‘bread drought’ across great swathes of England.”
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on: 020 3371 2065
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.