Trade union Unite says members working for logistics giant GXO, which runs an outsourced delivery contract for the Co-op Group, are taking strike action in a pay dispute.
More than 330 drivers and transport clerks based at the company’s depot in Elton Head Road, St Helens, are involved in the dispute. The workers recorded a 97% vote in favour of strike action.
Unite says the drivers deliver to 466 Co-op Group stores, from the Lake District in the north, Leeds in the east, as far south as Hereford and Aberystwyth in the west.
It warns that the strike action “will have an immediate effect on supplies”, although the Group says it is taking steps to minimise disruption for shoppers.
In total 40 days of strike action have been announced between the end of May and the end of August. This will comprise 20 separate, 48 hour strikes, with the first strike beginning on Wednesday 31 May, which coincides with the jubilee celebrations.
The union says drivers are currently paid a standard rate of £14.77 an hour, and claims drivers employed on comparable contracts are often paid over £17 an hour.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “GXO’s refusal to pay our members the rate for the job means Co-op stores will now be short of goods. This is a wealthy company that has no excuse not to pay proper wages.
“GXO needs to get real and make an offer that meets our members’ expectations. Unite will be giving these workers its full support until this dispute is resolved.”
Unite regional officer Kenny Rowe said: “Strike action will undoubtedly cause disruption to Co-op stores across much of the country but this dispute is entirely of GXO’s own making.
“Even at this late stage strike action and the ensuing disruption can still be avoided, but GXO has to make an improved offer.”
A spokesperson for GXO said: “We are committed to being an employer of choice for our employees and our customers. Discussions are ongoing in order to reach agreement with all parties involved.”
A spokesperson for the Group said: “We are very sorry it has got to this point. We are working closely with GXO who employ the drivers, as they seek to continue discussions to try and resolve the dispute. Shoppers should rest assured that we are also taking extensive steps and putting plans in place in the event that action should still take place to minimise disruption and ensure customers can get the products they want and need, conveniently.”
The Group outsourced much of its logistics operation in 2016 and at the time held discussions with Unite to avoid an industrial dispute.
The strike comes on the heels of last year’s supply chain issues – felt across the grocery sector – after Covid-19 and Brexit sparked a labour shortage in the haulage industry. In response the Group worked with GXO to develop a driver apprenticeship scheme.