'Festive crisp famine' warning

Warrington-based Eddie Stobart drivers on Walkers contract ballot for industrial action

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A series of broken promises and a proposed pay freeze by management at haulier Eddie Stobart Ltd, could result in a festive crisp famine, Unite has warned.

The dispute is a result of Eddie Stobart refusing to recognise Unite for pay negotiations for lorry drivers on its Warrington-based Walkers crisp contract and then trying to impose a pay freeze on the workforce.

The strike action ballot will open on Tuesday, December 1 and will close on Wednesday, December 9. If, as expected, the members of Unite vote for industrial action, strikes will begin in Christmas week, which will quickly result in shortages in retail outlets.

In spring 2019, strike action on the Walkers Pepsico contract operated by Stobart was averted at the eleventh hour after the company agreed to accept that Unite has a collective bargaining agreement, as the recognised trade union, and that the company would engage with Unite on this basis. Unite is now accusing Stobart of reneging on the agreement reached in the 2019 agreement.

Unite regional officer Steve Gerrard said, “Our members were designated as key workers and worked throughout the pandemic and despite all their efforts Eddie Stobart believes that it is acceptable to impose a pay freeze.

“It was Karl Marx who said history repeats itself, first as tragedy and second as farce, but there is nothing funny about Stobart reneging on its agreement last year to recognise Unite and allow it to be involved in pay negotiations,” he added.

“If strike action does occur, and with major retailers relying on just-in-time delivery systems, especially at the busiest time of the year, there will quickly be empty shelves in supermarkets, where Walkers’ products are usually found,” Gerrard continued.

“Industrial action is always taken as a last resort, but Unite members believe they have no option but to ballot for strike action to ensure that Stobart tables a fair pay offer and honours its previous commitments.

“It is not too late for Stobart’s management to avert industrial action by seeing sense and entering into proper pay negotiations, fully involving Unite and its officials and making a fair pay offer.”

By Barckley Sumner

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