A beer drought is on the cards as about 1,000 drivers, their ‘mates’ and warehouse staff who deliver top brands, such as Heineken, are being balloted for industrial action over a ‘paltry’ pay offer, Unite the union said today (Friday 23 July).

The workers, employed by XPO Logistics Drinks Ltd, are based at 26 sites and are responsible for about 40 per cent of the beer deliveries across the UK.

Unite will start balloting its members from Wednesday (28 July) for strike action and industrial action short of a strike over the company’s offer of 1.4 per cent for 2021, which is well below the current RPI inflation rate of 3.9 per cent. The ballot closes on Monday 9 August.

The workers’ anger over the pay offer is further exacerbated by them losing between £8,000 and £10,000 over the last year due to furlough and lack of overtime, coupled with no pay increase for 2020.

Unite had offered a manageable inflation increase which the company then rejected. This resulted in the workforce voting overwhelmingly in a consultative ballot in favour of a full-scale industrial action ballot.

Separately from the pay issue, Unite has lodged a complaint that the bosses are cutting all Covid-secure cleaning processes for the drivers, which the union said was ‘the height of irresponsibility as Covid cases were rocketing alarmingly’.

Unite national officer for the drinks industry Joe Clarke said: “Our members have suffered great financial hardship during the pandemic with some of them losing up to £10,000 through being furloughed and picking up no overtime. 

“The company has responded by offering a paltry 1.4 per cent which is well below the current RPI inflation rate of 3.9 per cent. 

“Meanwhile, the drivers, their ‘mates’ and warehouse staff  are working flat out currently to meet the high demand for beer volumes in our pubs as society reopens. 

“However, a beer drought could result if our members vote for industrial action because they make 40 per cent of the beer deliveries in the country. This disruption would be on top of the ‘pingdemic’ that is already hitting the sector.

 “We call upon the company to engage in meaningful negotiations regarding a decent pay increase for our members. 

“Separately, the company has ceased all Covid-secure cleaning processes for our drivers which is ridiculous as infection rates soar. This move is aimed at cutting times for driver deliveries in an unsafe way. It is an act of corporate irresponsibility.” 


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.