Kingsmill drivers row may spark ‘bread drought’, warns Unite

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

A drivers’ strike at Kingsmill’s West Bromwich factory would create a ‘bread draught’ in England, claimed Unite
A drivers’ strike at Kingsmill’s West Bromwich factory would create a ‘bread draught’ in England, claimed Unite

Related tags West bromwich Trade union Strike action

The north west and Midlands could face a pre-Christmas “bread drought”, if drivers at Kingsmill’s West Bromwich bakery go on strike in a pay dispute, claimed Unite the union.

The union planned to ballot about 130 of its members – drivers, maintenance staff and security staff at the factory – this week for strike action, in a dispute over what it described as “a paltry pay offer”.

Unite said the offer – a 2% pay rise, plus £150 for the year starting April 2017 and the same offer for the year starting April 2018 – was below the current rate of inflation and didn’t reflect the cost of living.

It claimed that its members were being paid much less than staff working in similar roles at Sainsbury and logistics firm Culina.

Unite also claimed that drivers at Kingsmill’s Stockport depot earned £1,500-a-year more than those at West Bromwich.

‘Below what competitors are paying’

Unite lead officer for the food sector Joe Clarke said: “What we have here is a highly profitable global company paying our Kingsmill members well below what competitors are paying their drivers for the same work.

Clarke warned that a strike would cause havoc to bread deliveries to supermarkets, leaving 1.5M loaves of bread undelivered a week.

“Customers of major supermarkets in these regions seeking bread and other bakery products in the run-up to Christmas could be faced with bread shortages,” ​added Clarke.

“There will be ‘bread mountains’ at the West Bromwich depot, but a ‘bread drought’ across great swathes of England.”

However, Allied Bakeries, owner of the Kingsmill brand, said it was confident that it would still be in a position to deliver fresh bread to all of its customers, should a strike go ahead.

‘Robust contingency plans’

An Allied Bakeries spokesman said: “We have robust contingency plans in place and are changing a number of delivery routes to mitigate the risk of any disruption.”

The company said it had been discussing possible pay agreements with its delivery drivers and union representatives since May this year.

“Unfortunately, we haven’t yet come to a settlement and are naturally disappointed that the union has now decided to initiate a ballot of their members at the site for industrial action,”​ the spokesman added.

“As a responsible and respected local employer we are always open to discussion with our employees.”

Last month, Unite threatened to ballot its members​ at Kingsmill’s West Bromwich factory after pay talks broke down.

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