Walkers Crisps reassures trade over threatened ‘crisps famine’

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Planned strike action by Eddie Stobart drivers will not cause a shortage of Walkers Crisps, the manufacture reassured
Planned strike action by Eddie Stobart drivers will not cause a shortage of Walkers Crisps, the manufacture reassured

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Strike action threatened by trade union Unite at logistics provider Eddie Stobart will not lead to a ‘festive crisp famine’, according to snack manufacturer Walkers.

The manufacturer’s comments follow claims from workers union Unite that proposed strike action against Stobart – which operates Walker’s supply chain – would result in product failing to reach stores.

A spokesman for the manufacturer said: “We are confident this issue will not result in a shortage of crisps this Christmas.

“We are aware a union is planning industrial action with some lorry drivers working for our distribution supplier. There are contingency plans in place so that shelves will remain stocked.”

Pay freeze

Unite claimed Eddie Stobart sparked the dispute by refusing to recognise Unite for pay negotiations for lorry drivers on its Warrington-based Walkers Crisps contract, then trying to impose a pay freeze on workers.

Unite regional officer Steve Gerrard said: “Our members were designated as key workers and worked throughout the pandemic and despite all their efforts Eddie Stobart believes that it is acceptable to impose a pay freeze.

“If strike action does occur, and with major retailers relying on just-in-time delivery systems, especially at the busiest time of the year, there will quickly be empty shelves in supermarkets, where Walkers’ products are usually found.”

Gerrard claimed industrial action was a last resort. He said Unite members had no option other than the ballot for a strike, in order to ensure Stobart extended a fair pay offer and honoured previous commitments.

Never too late

 “It is not too late for Stobart's management to avert industrial action by seeing sense and entering into proper pay negotiations, fully involving Unite and its officials and making a fair pay offer,” ​Gerrard concluded.

The strike action ballot will open on Tuesday 1 December, with a potential strike to begin in Christmas week.

The union threatened strike action against the logistics provider last year after long-running discussions over pay broke down. Strikes were suspended at the eleventh hour after Eddie Stobart agreed to further talks.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, prepared foods manufacturer Bakkavor denied strike action occurred at its Wiltshire cake factory,​ after confirming cases of coronavirus there as it announced the planned closure of its Alresford salad plant, affecting 100 jobs.

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