Sainsbury’s is facing Easter shortages at its stores across the South East, including parts of London, after DHL staff at its Dartford regional distribution centre voted for strike action over ‘union busting’, Unite, the UK’s leading union, said today (Friday 12 February).  

The Dartford strike ballot was called after a Unite steward, who was providing support to a member of staff during an investigation hearing, was suspended for challenging a DHL managers’ version of events.

The reason given for the suspension by the manager was that the Unite steward was being aggressive – an accusation flatly contradicted by a neutral member of staff who was present at the meeting as a third party.

After the vote in favour of strike action, more than 350 DHL staff are now poised to stage walk out's throughout March, April and May.

Unite said DHL can avoid any disruption to its Sainsbury’s contract if the ‘completely unjustified suspension’ is revoked and industrial relations at the site improved.

The strike vote comes after a number of incidents in which union representatives have been targeted at DHL sites across the country. 

In December, DHL managers called police ‘at least 10 times’ to a peaceful picket line in the Croxeth area of Liverpool. The now resolved dispute ended in part because of DHL’s recognition that industrial relations needed improving

DHL union reps have also been targeted or disregarded at sites in Halewood, Merseyside, and Solihull, West Midlands, in recent months.

Unite regional officer Phil Silkstone said: “DHL’s leadership have no one to blame but themselves for the deterioration in staff relations at the Dartford site. 

“It is clear to our members that DHL’s completely unjustified suspension of a Unite steward is a clear attempt at union busting. 

“They are well aware that if the suspension is allowed to stand, it will only encourage attempts to try and weaken collective bargaining, pay and terms and conditions. 

“Strikes and the resultant disruption to Sainsbury’s Easter supply chain will go ahead unless DHL revokes the suspension and builds bridges with staff instead of knocking them down. 

“DHL can avoid strike action if they reverse the suspension of our member and enter into peace talks. Unite is more than happy to facilitate this before strikes are officially announced.” 

Unite national officer Matt Draper said: “Part of the reason the dispute at DHL’s Portal Way site in Liverpool was settled was because the company promised ‘ongoing outside influence to change the workplace culture and improve industrial relations’. 

“Like the Portal Way workforce, DHL’s Dartford staff will not stand for bullying and harassment and will go on strike unless the unjust suspension of their colleague is reversed. 

“The Dartford workforce, as well as staff at all other DHL sites where there are similarly toxic issues, need guarantees from the company’s national leadership that these problems will be rooted out and dealt with.” 


DHL Dartford strike ballot over suspended union rep mirrors company-wide ‘union busting’, says Unite

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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.