More than 450 Wincanton workers at B&Q’s national distribution warehouse in Worksop have escalated previous industrial action over poverty pay to an all-out strike, severely impacting store deliveries across the country.
Unite warned further disruption is looming at a second national B&Q distribution centre in Cambuslang, Scotland, after GXO lorry drivers voted to take strike action in response to a below inflation pay offer.
HGV drivers employed on behalf of B&Q by GXO in England are also considering pay strikes, which would impact the DIY giant’s nationwide distribution centre in Doncaster as well as further disrupt the Worksop site.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Extremely profitable B&Q has a responsibility to ensure that the workers in its supply chain are paid a reasonable wage. The fact that this not the case is now coming back to bite them.
“Wincanton workers at its Worksop warehouse earn so little, that usage of foodbanks and emergency loans are not uncommon among the workforce,” she added. “Meanwhile, GXO HGV drivers on the B&Q contract are expected to shoulder de-facto wage cuts in the form of a below inflation pay offer.
“Unite fights to defend the jobs, pay and conditions of our members,” Graham went on to say. “We make no apology for demanding that B&Q step in and get its supply chain partners, whose profits are skyrocketing off the backs of Unite members, to table acceptable pay offers.”
B&Q owner Kingfisher’s half year pre-tax profits rose by 61.6 per cent to £669 million in 2021, with sales at the DIY-giant increasing by 28.8 per cent in the first six months to July.
Wincanton made profits of £47.2 million during 2020 and performed well throughout 2021. Pay is so low at the Worksop warehouse, however, that last year the local Unite branch was forced to set up a hardship fund, providing emergency grants and zero per cent interest loans, to help struggling staff. Many Unite members have had to access food banks because they can’t make ends meet on their poverty pay rates.
Meanwhile, GXO Logistics’ 2020 profits were £1.2bn – up 20 per cent from 2019. During the same period, the pay of GXO’s highest paid directors increased by 100 per cent to £1.3m from £651,000.
Unite national officer Matt Draper said, “We know that the strike in Worksop is now causing a significant delivery backlog to B&Q stores across the country. This will only get worse as the strike continues.
“Further strikes in the separate dispute in Cambuslang, as well as the potential for drivers in Doncaster and Worksop to also down tools as part of their dispute, means B&Q could be facing a very rocky start to 2022,” he added.
“Unite is more than happy to sit down with B&Q, Wincanton and GXO to find a solution that our members can accept so that business can return to normal.”
By Ryan Fletcher