Beer Drought A Possibility In UK, Trade Union Unite Warns

By Dayeeta Das
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Beer Drought A Possibility In UK, Trade Union Unite Warns

A beer drought could be on the cards in the UK, trade union Unite has said, as about 1,000 XPO drivers and warehouse staff, who deliver brands such as Heineken, are being balloted for industrial action over what has been described as a ‘paltry’ pay offer.

The workers, employed by XPO Logistics Drinks Ltd, are spread across 26 sites and are responsible for about 40% of the beer deliveries across the UK. XPO also works with a number of retailers across the UK.

XPO Drivers Strike

The drivers' union will begin balloting members from Wednesday (28 July) for strike action and industrial action over the company’s offer of 1.4 % increase for 2021.

The ballot closes on Monday 9 August.

The workers’ anger over the pay offer follows on from frustrations from them losing between £8,000 and £10,000 over the last year due to furlough and lack of overtime, coupled with no pay increase for 2020.


The union had offered a manageable inflation increase, which the company then rejected.

This resulted in the workforce voting overwhelmingly in a consultative ballot in favour of a full-scale industrial action ballot.

Covid Safety Measures

Separately from the pay issue, the union has lodged a complaint that XPO bosses are cutting all COVID-secure cleaning processes for the drivers, which the union said was the height of irresponsibility as Covid cases were rocketing alarmingly’.

Union group Unite's 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.


"The company has responded by offering a paltry 1.4% which is well below the current RPI inflation rate of 3.9%."

Clarke warned that "a beer drought could result if our members vote for industrial action because they make 40 percent of the beer deliveries in the country. This disruption would be on top of the ‘pingdemic’ that is already hitting the sector."

"Separately, the company has ceased all COVID-secure cleaning processes for our drivers which is ridiculous as infection rates soar. This move is aimed at cutting times for driver deliveries in an unsafe way. It is an act of corporate irresponsibility," Clarke added.

In March, truck drivers serving Albert Heijn stores in the Netherlands staged a protest over a wage increase.

© 2021 European Supermarket Magazine. Article by Conor Farrelly. For more Supply Chain news, click here. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: European Supermarket Magazine.

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