Deliveries to Marks and Spencer food stores in London and the south east will be disrupted if a strike over ‘equal pay for equal work’ at Hemel Hempstead goes ahead, Unite, the country’s largest union, has warned.
About 20 Unite members working for GIST Ltd at the Hertfordshire site, which supplies food deliveries to M&S stores, are set to stage twelve 24-hour strikes in a dispute that sees them being paid about £8,000-a-year less than the majority of the workforce.
Unite represents about 20 ‘pickers and loaders’ earning about £22,000-a-year under a local agreement, while an estimated 280 workers (the majority of who are also Unite members) under national terms and conditions earn about £30,000 for doing the same work.
The first strike at the Three Cherry Trees site is due to start at 00.01 on Friday 30 June and will then be repeated on 7, 14, 22, and 28 July; and 4, 11, 18, and 25 August; and 1, 8 and 15 September.
Unite regional officer Alan Brkljac said, “The kernel of this dispute is that the GIST bosses refuse to recognise our members’ case for ‘equal pay for equal work’.
“We are calling for the workers affected to be integrated into the national agreement because, at present, they earn about £8,000-a-year less than colleagues doing exactly the same work at the same site.
“GIST has the contract to supply M&S stores nationally and should these strikes go-ahead there will be disruption to more than 100 M&S stores in London and the south east at weekends.
“This dispute could be easily resolved if the 20 plus workers were put on the national agreement that covers 2,000 GIST employees nationwide.
“The management has continually dragged its feet on this issue and we call on Marks and Spencer to exercise its influence on GIST to assist in the settlement of this dispute.
“It was only two years ago that M&S signed the £2bn, 10 year exclusive deal with GIST, which prides itself on being an ethical employer, to provide logistics for its growing food store business.”
The origins of the dispute go back to 2008 when there was a local arrangement to supply food to BP garages, but since then the logistics has expanded and changed with those covered by the local agreement now working for the M&S national contract.
The Unite members voted unanimously for the 12 days of strike action.