The threat of severe disruption to deliveries to more than 1,500 convenience stores in London and the south east has moved a step closer after 40 drivers, employed by Booker Retail Partners at its Thamesmead site, voted unanimously for strike action.

Unite the union is poised to issue notice to the employer for strike action, but wants to allow time for crunch talks with the bosses on 21-23 September – and the union warned that any industrial action will deepen the supply shortage crisis hitting many parts of the UK economy because of the lack of HGV drivers.

The Thamesmead drivers deliver to independent retailers under the Budgens and Londis brands.

The crux of the dispute is that the company, part of the Tesco ‘empire’, put in place a temporary £5 an hour pay uplift for about 40 drivers at its Hemel Hempstead depot because of the HGV driver shortage, but then refused to implement a similar uplift for the 40 drivers at the Thamesmead site.

Unite regional officer Paul Travers said: “This is really ‘smell the coffee’ time for the bosses at Booker Retail Partners. Our members at Thamesmead could not have sent out a clearer message – 100 per cent voting in favour of strike action.

“We are poised to issue notice for strike action very soon which will cause serious disruption to more than 1,500 convenience stores on London and the south east; however we are holding crucial talks on 21- 23 September. If those talks don’t result in a fair settlement, there will be strikes as our members are up for a long, drawn out fight for pay justice.

“This dispute has been pockmarked by very poor employment relations by the management with senior executives ‘missing in action’ at critical times and then trying to bypass negotiating procedures by attempting to offer our members a deal that would have ultimately left them worse off.

“Any industrial action will deepen the supply shortages that many parts of the retail sector are currently experiencing due to the wider issue of HGV driver shortages which are estimated at 70,000 - 100,000.

"Unite is dedicated to advancing the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and will fight back against any efforts to diminish workers' living standards."

ENDS

Notes to editors:

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Unite is the leading union in the UK and Ireland, dedicated to defending and improving members' jobs, pay and conditions.  The general secretary is Sharon Graham.