Arla Easter strike threat intensifies

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Arla faces disruption to milk deliveries this Easter
Arla faces disruption to milk deliveries this Easter

Related tags Arla foods Trade union

Arla Foods’s milk deliveries to northern supermarkets could be disrupted over Easter, after the GMB and Unite the Union both warned a three-day strike was likely over the holiday.

Unless the row could be resolved quickly, the 72-hour strike will start at one minute past midnight on Wednesday April 1 and conclude at one minute to midnight on Friday 3rd April, the unions warned.

Deliveries to leading supermarkets in the north of England – including Tesco, Aldi, Morrison and Asda – could be hit, said the GMB.

In a ballot, 98% of drivers voted for strike action. Taking part were 100 Leeds-based union members, whose employment was transferred from Arla Foods to Moran Logistics on Sunday March 8.

98% of drivers voted for strike action

The dispute focuses on pensions and holiday pay for drivers, which were likely to suffer following Arla’s decision to outsource transport to third-party firm Moran Logistics, claimed the unions. Also at dispute, according to the GMB, is Moran’s alleged insistence that joint trade union recognition agreement will not transfer with the drivers.

Unite national officer for road transport Matt Draper said the dispute was complex. “So, even though the outstanding issues are with Arla Foods, because the new employer is Moran Logistics the strike action is directed towards this company. Arla Foods is short changing and not honouring commitments to our members.”

But talks could still prevent the strike, he added. “The ball is very much in Arla’s court, and Unite and the GMB are ready for constructive talks at any time.”

Supermarkets at risk of disruption

  • Tesco
  • Aldi
  • Morrisons
  • Asda 

‘The ball is in Arla’s court’

GMB regional officer Rachel Dix acknowledged progress had been made towards resolving the row but complained Arla stood in the way of a final resolution.

“The joint trade unions met with Moran Logistics last week and our talks were productive,” ​said Dix. “We are hopeful that we can reach an agreement soon and that as a consequence, we can work constructively with the new company under new bargaining arrangements.

​The fly in the ointment however is Arla. Our members feel like they have been short changed by their former employer over past underpayments in holiday pay and by the company not committing to past agreements that should have transferred to Moran.”

Arla could resolve the dispute easily and “spare us all the severe disruption​ to milk supplies”​ in supermarkets across the north of England at Easter, she claimed.

Union members deliver milk to supermarkets from Nottingham to the north east and, west of the Pennines, in Cheshire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Lancashire. 

Dan Kolding, Arla Foods senior vice president, supply chain UK, said the firm’s people were at the heart of its growth strategy. “As such, throughout the transfer process Arla has worked with Moran Logistics to ensure that all affected colleagues have been treated in a fair and consistent way in line with, and in some cases, exceeding all TUPE ​[Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment] requirements, to make certain that all of their terms and conditions have been transferred,”​ said Kolding.

“We continue to be fully committed to supporting affected colleagues as they go through these changes.  We have consistently sought, and have now secured a meeting with both Unite and GMB unions in order to clarify their position,”​ he added.

“Arla remains committed to reaching a mutually acceptable resolution in order to avoid the proposed industrial action, which we believe is unnecessary. We have full contingency plans in place to ensure that deliveries to our customers are not impacted.”

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