Deliveries to about 100 Sainsbury’s stores in London and the south east will be severely hit over the Christmas period as 12 drivers working for an outsourced firm stage six days of strikes over a £12,000 disparity in wages.

The 12 drivers, employed by Harper & Guy Consulting Ltd at the Sainsbury’s Waltham Abbey distribution centre, have voted unanimously for strike action as they are paid £12,000 less a year than those directly employed by the retail giant.

The drivers, who do a lot of hub collections bringing goods into the distribution system, will strike for 24 hours on 14, 15, 20, 21 and 22  December, as well as from 18.00 on Boxing Day to 17.59 on 27 December.

Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said that the St Albans-based employer had point blank refused to discuss the pay claim for 2020 and parity pay.

Unite regional officer Paul Travers said “What we have here is one of the most flagrant cases of pay parity injustice that I have been involved with, as our members are getting paid £12,000-a-year less than their counterparts employed directly by Sainsbury’s doing the same job at the Waltham Abbey depot.

“We feel that that Harper & Guy Consulting Ltd is hiding behind Covid-19 as a flimsy excuse not to engage in pay talks for 2020 and the glaring pay disparity issue.

“As a result of this hardline stance, our members are reluctantly taking six days of strike action that will badly affect deliveries to about 100 Sainsbury’s stores in London and the south east in the run-up to and over the Christmas period.

“You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to work out that 12 x £12,000 is nearly £150,000-a-year and that someone is benefiting from that figure – and it is definitely not our members.

“Ironically, Harper & Guy Consulting Ltd has pay parity with Sainsbury’s drivers for all the agency drivers it employs at this depot which just adds insult to injury for our 12 members who are being treated appallingly.

 “Unite, however, remains open for constructive talks for a just settlement and so avert these strikes that will badly hit Sainsbury’s bottom line in the competitive Christmas supermarket ‘war’ with its rivals.”

Unite national officer for road transport and logistics Matt Draper said: “This dispute further puts the spotlight on Sainsbury’s desire to pursue its misguided ‘race to the bottom’ strategy.

“Nationally, we have opposed the introduction of these lower paid ‘new generation’ contracts within Sainsbury’s. The way these drivers at Waltham Abbey are being contemptuously treated shows Sainsbury’s is implicated at arm’s length in the actions of Harper & Guy Consulting Ltd.

“Sainsbury’s needs to remember a ‘key worker’ is not just for the present Covid-19 emergency, but for the long-term as a contented workforce improves productivity. I urge Sainsbury’s to intervene and resolve this injustice before it suffers reputational damage as a result.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.