Unite and the GMB have issued separate statements, threatening industrial action over Easter unless the pay and conditions of members involved in the switch are preserved.
If the strike goes ahead, milk distribution in the north of England would be hit, they stressed.
Arla Foods has decided to transfer outbound drivers from its Leeds transport hub under Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) (TUPE) rules to Moran Logistics, also based in Leeds, on March 8. How many drivers are affected in total is not known.
‘Upset and angry’
The unions said they feared for members affected. “Our members are incredibly upset and angry,” said Rachel Dix, GMB regional officer. “They feel that Arla is relinquishing all responsibility for a long-serving, loyal workforce.
“This is compounded by the company’s refusal to share key information on how cost savings can be generated by this transfer. In the absence of this detail, we can only conclude that both pay and jobs will be put at risk. This has to be challenged.”
Matt Draper, Unite national officer for road transport, said: “Unless Moran Logistics gets around the table for meaningful negotiations about recognising the unions and guaranteeing our members’ terms and conditions, the drivers could be striking over the forthcoming Easter holiday.
“The drivers, with over 1,000 years of loyal service, are being dumped by Arla. The company has repeatedly refused to share with the two unions the financial information to support this decision. The continued refusal to supply this data endorses the unions’ beliefs that pay and conditions will be attacked once the transfer has been completed.”
Unite and GMB are incensed that Moran had refused to recognise them and said that strengthened their fears that the drivers’ terms would be detrimentally affected.
“Arla and Moran have treated these loyal workers with utter contempt, refusing to supply the necessary supporting evidence,” said Draper. “Arla has evaded its moral obligation. Both companies are complicit in attacking our members’ terms and conditions.”
An Arla Foods spokesman said: “Arla Foods is a cooperative owned by 13,500 farmers across Europe, nearly 3,000 of whom are British. In what continues to be a challenging period for the dairy industry, we’ve needed to review our operations to improve our efficiency and remain competitive.
“This has been key to our decision to outsource the outbound logistics operation run from the Leeds transport hub to Moran Logistics under TUPE.
“Under TUPE, contracts of employment including existing terms and conditions for all the colleagues affected will transfer to Moran Logistics. We remain in communication with representatives of all those affected and we are committed to supporting our colleagues as we go through these changes.”
Moran Logistics declined to comment.
On November 27, Arla Foods announced plans to axe 100 UK jobs, mainly at its head office, as part of a restructure to improve efficiency and competitiveness.