There is a “severe” threat of disruption to more than 1,500 convenience stores in London and the south east after a group of HGV drivers in Thamesmead voted unanimously for strike action.
Unite say 40 drivers, employed by Book Retail Partners at its site in south east London, have “sent out a clear message” and called it “smell the coffee time” for bosses at the company.
The union said strikes would lead to more empty shelves and deepen the supply shortage crisis which is currently hitting the UK because of a lack of HGV driver.
The Thamesmead drivers deliver to independent retailers under the Budgens and Londis brands, but workers are unhappy after the company, part of Tesco’s empire, put in place a temporary £5 an hour pay rise for drivers at its Hemel Hempstead depot due to the driver shortages.
They have refused to do the same for the 40 drivers at the Thamesmead site, and the union members have since voted for strike action over the issues.
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.”