Christmas shortages threat as Tesco staff reject pay offer
Drivers, warehouse workers slam 2.5% rise as 'effective pay cut'
Fears of supermarket shortages ahead of Christmas grew on Friday after truck drivers and warehouse workers at four Tesco distribution centres rejected the company’s latest pay offer.
Unite, the union representing the workers, said staff “overwhelmingly rejected Tesco's full and final offer” of a 2.5% pay increase after a consultative ballot. The distribution centres affected are Belfast, Didcot, Doncaster and Thurrock.
The move follows the threat of a strike at delivery group Yodel, owned by the Barclay family, after 250 of its couriers voted for industrial action over pay and conditions, which could affect deliveries for Marks & Spencer, Aldi and Very from Yodel’s depots in Hatfield in Hertforshire, Glasgow and Wednesbury in the West Midlands.
A combination of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic have led to a crippling driver shortage in Britain, leading to unions campaigning for a wage rises in a traditionally poorly-paid sector.
The Yodel drivers’ ballot in favour of action also comes as drivers at the Booker distribution network, which is part of Tesco, and more than 200 drivers and engineers at Hanson, the cement producer, moved closer to industrial action in disputes over pay and conditions.
Unite warned Tesco shelves will “quickly become empty this winter, potentially affecting the Christmas period” if action went ahead.
“This is a substantial real terms pay cut with the RPI inflation rate currently running at 4.8%,” said Unite general secretary Sharon Graham.
“Tesco’s staff have kept working throughout the pandemic and that alone surely means they deserve a decent pay rise.”
“Tesco’s shareholders will be well rewarded out of Tesco’s three billion pound profits. Unite is preparing for industrial action now to make sure the workers get their share as well.”
Unite said Tesco made clear during talks that it did not believe it needs to substantially raise drivers’ wages.
“Despite well-publicised driver shortages, the supermarket claims it has a waiting list of 400 drivers keen to work for the company, the union said in a statement.
A Tesco spokesperson said: “We are in ongoing talks with Unite representatives regarding pay and are working closely with them to find a resolution. We look forward to meeting with them again soon to work towards an agreement on a pay award for our colleagues in those four distribution centres.”