Tesco transferred the centre’s operation to Eddie Stobart on August 5. The new employer then issued 183 Tesco drivers with 90 days’ notice of termination of employment on September 5, with no promise that the drivers would be re-employed once the 90 days was up.
Unite regional officer Harriet Eisner told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “Tesco wants to drive down costs and the only way it can do that is by transferring the engagements – it’s washing its hands of any responsibility.”
A spokesman from Tesco told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “As part of a recent review of our distribution network, we announced plans to transfer the transport operation at our Doncaster Distribution Centre to Eddie Stobart. After a period of consultation with staff and their representatives, the transfer took place on August 5.”
In a statement, David Pickering, Eddie Stobart md, said: “Eddie Stobart proposes that all collections and deliveries at Tesco's Doncaster distribution centre will be organised using its network resources. As a consequence, all 183 LGV driver positions have been identified as being at risk of redundancy.”
The drivers are now voting on whether to take industrial action. Voting closes on September 12.
Pickering said: “Eddie Stobart has now entered into a 90-day consultation period with Unite and elected representatives to look at ways of avoiding redundancy and will do everything it can to help affected employees find alternative employment opportunities within Stobart Group.”
Unite says few employees will be offered jobs, and those that will be offered will be on significantly lower pay.
“Eddie Stobart contracts are a good couple of quid an hour less,” said Eisner. “They have been cut down to the bone. They’ve also lost their access to Tesco shares and pension.”
Grim for Doncaster
Unite national officer for retail distribution, Matt Draper said: “The scale of the job losses will be grim news for Doncaster – a town already badly hit by the government-induced recession.
“Tesco must bear its share of the blame for this, as it would have been aware that this might happen. Tesco makes great play of being good a corporate citizen – but today that has been shown to be a shallow pretence.”
Draper said Eddie Stobart had acted greedily. “It is also hypocritical as one reason put forward for this action is to cut carbon dioxide emissions – but now it will be using depots 30 miles away to service the Tesco distribution set-up in Doncaster – so where is the ‘green’ bonus in that?
“What Unite feared has come true and we are urging the local community to get behind the drivers to maintain these jobs in Doncaster.”
When asked how a strike would affect Tesco’s distribution, Eisner said: “That remains to be seen.”
She added: “Apart from the potential damage to its reputation, Tesco doesn’t have to worry. It’s washed its hands of all responsibility with a stroke of a pen. It’s transferred a multimillion pound operation to save money but it’s the drivers, who are faced with losing their jobs at Christmas, who will pick up the price.”