Union members voted 97% for strike action and 99% for industrial action short of strike over the company’s pay offer – a 1.4% rise for 2021, which Unite claimed was well below the current retail price index inflation rate of 3.9%.
Unite members across 26 GXO sites will take part in two 24 hour strikes, the first starting at 10.00 on Tuesday 24 August and then at 10.00 on Thursday 2 September. This will be accompanied by an overtime ban that will continue until Monday 15 November.
Unite national officer for the drinks industry Joe Clarke said: “Our members have suffered great financial hardship during the pandemic with some of them losing up to £10,000 through being furloughed and picking up no overtime, so it is no surprise that they have voted almost unanimously for industrial action.
“Our mandate for such action is resounding and reflects the deep anger felt by our members over their treatment by the bosses.”
According to Unite, its members were responsible for 40% of the beer deliveries to pubs and other hospitality outlets across the UK.
“This disruption would be on top of the ‘pingdemic’ and the well-publicised HGV driver shortages that are already hitting the sector,” Clarke added.
“Now industrial action looms for late August, we call, once again, for the company to engage in meaningful negotiations regarding a decent pay increase for our members.”
Separately from the pay issue, Unite lodged a complaint against XPO bosses that claimed all COVID-secure cleaning processes for the drivers had been cut, which the union described as ‘the height of irresponsibility as COVID cases were rocketing alarmingly’.
Commenting on the union’s decision to strike, a GXO spokesman said: “We favour dialogue in all our negotiations. Discussions are ongoing in order to reach agreement, in particular for the hospitality sector that is only now emerging from the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown.”
Meanwhile, food and drink firms need to reassess and optimise their supply chains in the face of the heavy goods vehicle (HGV) driver shortage, urged supply chain consultancy Scala.