As part of the season of goodwill, Unite has delayed launching strike action on the Walkers Pepsico contract operated by Eddie Stobart Ltd from its Warrington depot.
Lorry drivers on the contract returned a 96.7 per cent yes vote in favour of strike action in a dispute over Stobart’s plans to impose a pay freeze and its refusal to enter into negotiations with Unite.
Strike action could have legally begun before Christmas, which would have created a crisp famine and resulted in Walkers’ products disappearing from supermarket shelves.
Instead of all out strike action, Unite has instead announced a three week overtime ban and work to rule which will begin just after midnight on 26 December and will end at 12am on January 15.
While the overtime ban is unlikely to result in the complete disappearance of Walkers’ products from shelves, shortages are still expected. This action could also have a disruptive impact on other Stobart customers within their network.
If the overtime ban does not result in Eddie Stobart entering into meaningful negotiations over pay, Unite will announce strike action in January.
Unite regional officer Steve Gerrard said, “Lovers of Walkers crisps will be relieved that they can enjoy their favourite snacks this Christmas.
“However, this is due to a gesture of goodwill by Unite’s drivers. Unite is giving Eddie Stobart a final opportunity to enter into realistic pay negotiations.
“The overtime ban will have a significant effect on the distribution of the company’s products and should serve as a wake-up call to management,” he added.
“Workers do not take industrial action lightly but believe that they have no option. They are working on an incredibly profitable contract and have continued to work through two lockdowns and it is unacceptable that the only thanks they get for their dedication is a pay freeze, a pay cut in real terms.
“To avoid industrial action, Stobart management simply need to fully engage with Unite, and we are willing to discuss these issues with a positive approach.”
By Barckley Sumner