HGV drivers at Booker’s Thamesmead depot are to be balloted for strike action, after the C&C/delivered wholesaler refused to pay them the same temporary rise of £5 an hour that it has awarded to drivers at its Hemel Hempstead site.
Unite accused the company of ‘burying its head in the sand’ as the HGV driver shortage across the country escalates due to an ageing workforce who are retiring; the effect of the ‘pingdemic’; the backlog in tests for new entrants due to COVID restrictions; and European Union drivers who returned home during the pandemic, but are now deterred from returning to the UK due to Brexit bureaucracy.
Unite regional officer Paul Travers said: “We are facing a serious HGV driver shortage across the UK – ‘a perfect storm’ in the worst possible way.
“Due to this well-publicised driver shortage, Booker Retail Partners put in place a temporary uplift in pay of £5 an hour for the drivers at Hemel Hempstead; however, when we approached the company in regards to an uplift for our members at Thamesmead, the bosses refused.
“The drivers are paid a low rate of pay. The company seems to think this is acceptable and has consistently refused to meet our demand for a temporary uplift until pay negotiations start in September. Due to the shortage of HGV drivers, pay rates are increasing rapidly across the industry and the management are burying their heads in the sand over this development.”
The Thamesmead drivers will now be balloted from mid to the end of August for strike action and industrial action short of a strike.
“The depot at Thamesmead services over 1,500 convenience stores across London, the south and the south east, including Budgens, Londis, Premier, One Stop and many petrol stations,” Travers added.
“Our members deliver everything from fresh food to ‘dry’ groceries and are the lifeblood of many smaller convenience stores. The impact of any sort of industrial action will have a serious impact on the stores’ ability to satisfy customer demand.
“We are calling for serious talks with the management to resolve this issue – our door is open for talks 24/7.”
In response, a Booker spokesperson said: “The industry shortage of HGV drivers has created some distribution challenges but we’re doing everything we can to ensure customers can get the products they need. We are working closely with our suppliers, our colleagues at our distribution centres and Unite to manage the issue and find the best way forward.”
In trying to find out what reasons there could possibly be for paying some of its drivers more than others, Cash & Carry Management asked Booker: ‘Why wouldn’t Booker pay the same temporary rise to all its HGV drivers?’ but as this article went to press, the C&C/delivered wholesaler had not answered this question.
Tel: Booker (01933) 371000Published Date: August 2, 2021