A leading haulage company has been accused of using Covid-19 as ‘a smokescreen’ to close a depot in Suffolk and attack the terms and conditions of more than 100 drivers by Unite.
Unite will now ballot its nearly 60 members, working for Goldstar Transport, based at Elmswell Road, Woolpit, near Bury St Edmunds, for strike action from Tuesday 30 June. The ballot closes on Tuesday July 14.
Unite said that within days of requesting trade union recognition earlier this month, the management announced to the 107 drivers by email that it was ceasing haulage operations from Woolpit.
The union understands that 12 drivers will be made redundant with 10 remaining on site and the other 85 drivers are being offered transfers to its Felixstowe headquarters 33 miles away.
The other reasons for the strike ballot are detrimental changes to terms and conditions from April this year, and serious health & safety concerns at Woolpit, including the alleged suspension of crane loads over vehicles when drivers are still in the cab.
Unite regional officer Mark Jaina said,“Unfortunately, like many unscrupulous employers, Goldstar Transport, appears to be using Covid-19 as a smokescreen to halt operations from the Woolpit depot, and impose detrimental terms and conditions on our members.
“It can’t be a coincidence that as soon as Unite asked for trade union recognition to better protect its members at Woolpit, including allegations over health & safety breaches, during the coronavirus emergency and beyond, the bosses decided to shut down haulage operations there,” he said.
“The company’s offer that the majority of the drivers transfer to Felixstowe, a round trip of nearly 70 miles, on a less favourable contract is neither fair nor realistic – and, as a result, we are now holding a ballot for strike action by our nearly 60 members.
“We believe that the company can well afford to keep the Woolpit operation in place, as according to its own website, it says that: ‘In 2020, we have an annual turnover in excess of £110 million’,” Jaina added.
“We urge the company to rescind its plan to close down operations at Woolpit and sit down with Unite to negotiate in a constructive manner the other outstanding issues that are adversely affecting our members – otherwise, the management could be facing strike action later this summer and right up until Christmas.”
By Shaun Noble