Thousands of convenience stores could be hit by strike

Thousands of Londis, Budgens and other convenience stores could be hit by shortages as drivers working for Booker threaten to STRIKE in row over pay amid supply chain crisis

  • Trade union Unite slammed Booker for refusing to grant a £5 per hour pay rise
  • Booker’s Thamesmead site in south-east London serves more than 1,500 stores
  • Strike would exacerbate existing supply chain issues for businesses across UK 

Thousands of convenience stores including Londis and Budgens could be hit by shortages as drivers working for a key distributor threatened to go on strike. 

Trade union Unite has slammed Booker – which is owned by Tesco – for refusing to grant a £5 per hour temporary pay rise to drivers working from its depot in Thamesmead, south-east London. 

The site serves more than 1,500 petrol stations and convenience stores across London and the south of England including Premier and One Stop.  

Booker’s Thamesmead depot serves thousands of stores in London and across the south-east. File photo 

Paul Travers, Unite’s regional officer, told Cash and Carry Management: ‘Due to this well-publicised driver shortage, Booker Retail Partners put in place a temporary uplift in pay of £5 an hour for the drivers at Hemel Hempstead. 

‘However, when we approached the company in regards to an uplift for our members at Thamesmead, the bosses refused.

‘The drivers are paid a low rate of pay. The company seems to think this is acceptable and has consistently refused to meet our demand for a temporary uplift until pay negotiations start in September.’ 

The issue will now go to a ballot of members. 

It comes as drivers for Yodel and DHL threatened their own strike in a move that could disrupt deliveries from Asos and Argos.  

A consultative poll of 200 drivers working for DHL saw a 98 per cent vote for industrial action over the offer of a one per cent pay rise.

It will now go to a full ballot of members by the Unite union who recently won a higher pay rise for beer delivery drivers after a threatened strike which was subsequently called off this week.

A nationwide shortage of HGV drivers has put those in the trade in a stronger position when it comes to negotiating new pay deals.

The issue is having a serious impact for businesses including those in food and hospitality, with more than a quarter hit by low stock levels in recent weeks.  

A nationwide shortage of HGV drivers has put those in the trade in a stronger position when it comes to negotiating new pay deals

The Office for National Statistics’s recent business survey found 27 per cent of food services and accommodation firms have reported lower than normal stock levels – the worst-hit of all the sectors.

Low stock levels were also reported by 23 per cent of manufacturers and 25 per cent of firms in the wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles industry between July 26 and August 8.

The supply chain crisis is increasingly leaving supermarket shelves bare and leading to a shortage of materials and higher prices across a raft of sectors, from housebuilding to car production.

Greggs said this week it has been unable to restock products in some stores, joining McDonald’s, Nando’s, KFC, Beefeater and Subway in warning customers about shortages of key ingredients and products.

The escalating delivery driver shortage is now even threatening Christmas, with bosses at Iceland and the Co-op revealing this week that cancelled deliveries are causing the worst gaps on shelves they have ever seen.

Industry experts say the shortage is largely the result of a double-whammy of Brexit, which led to thousands of EU drivers going home, and coronavirus.

Lockdown hit the training of new drivers and some 40,000 HGV driver tests were cancelled.

Significantly, the average age of a British lorry driver is put at 56-57 and not enough young people have joined the industry against a background of long hours, unattractive conditions and poor pay.

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