Convenience stores may face supply shortage as Thamesmead lorry drivers vote for strike action

Delivery drivers based in a depot in Thamesmead have voted unanimously for strike action over a pay dispute.

More than 1,500 convenience stores in London and the South East could face disruptions to deliveries if the strike goes ahead.

Booker Retail Partners, who run the Thamesmead depot, put in place a temporary £5 an hour pay uplift for about 40 drivers at its Hemel Hempstead depot because of the HGV driver shortage.

They have refused to implement a similar uplift for the 40 drivers at the Thamesmead site, who are represented by Unite the Union.

Unite regional officer Paul Travers said: “This is really ‘smell the coffee’ time for the bosses at Booker Retail Partners. 

“Our members at Thamesmead could not have sent out a clearer message – 100 per cent voting in favour of strike action.

“This dispute has been pockmarked by very poor employment relations by the management with senior executives ‘missing in action’ at critical times and then trying to bypass negotiating procedures by attempting to offer our members a deal that would have ultimately left them worse off.”

The Thamesmead drivers deliver to independent retailers under the Budgens and Londis brands, meaning deliveries to these shops may be disrupted.

Unite the union is ready to issue notice to the employer for strike action, but is allowing time for crunch talks with company bosses on September 21 to 13.

Mr Travers added: “If those talks don’t result in a fair settlement, there will be strikes as our members are up for a long, drawn out fight for pay justice.

“Any industrial action will deepen the supply shortages that many parts of the retail sector are currently experiencing due to the wider issue of HGV driver shortages which are estimated at 70,000 – 100,000.

“Unite is dedicated to advancing the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and will fight back against any efforts to diminish workers’ living standards.”

The union warned that any industrial action will deepen the supply shortage crisis hitting many parts of the UK economy because of the lack of HGV drivers.

A spokeswoman for Booker said: “We are naturally disappointed with last week’s ballot result from our Thamesmead drivers but look forward to sitting down with their Unite representatives on September 21 and working together to find a resolution.”

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