Beer drought threat after drivers vote in favour of strike over ‘paltry’ pay

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Industry effect: the strike action would impact 40% of beer deliveries, Unite estimated (image: Getty/zoranm)
Industry effect: the strike action would impact 40% of beer deliveries, Unite estimated (image: Getty/zoranm)

Related tags Beer Heineken Strike action delivery

The threat of a beer drought later this month (August) increased as about 1,000 draymen, who deliver brands including Heineken, voted for industrial action over a ‘paltry’ pay offer.

Union Unite said there will be two 24-hour strikes with the first starting at 10am on Tuesday 24 August and the second at 10am on Thursday 2 September.

The strikes will be accompanied by an overtime ban and work to rule, from Tuesday 24 August until Monday 15 November.

Unite said its members, employed by GXO Logistics Drinks (formerly XPO Logistics Drinks) are based at 26 sites and responsible for about 40% of the beer deliveries to pubs and other hospitality venues across the nation.

Some 97% of members voted in favour of strike action and for industrial action short of a strike by 99% over the company’s offer of 1.4% for 2021 – a rate below the current RPI inflation of 3.9%.

Great financial hardship

Unite also stated the workers’ anger about the ‘paltry’ pay offer was further exacerbated by them losing between £8,000 and £10,000 over the past year thanks to furlough and lack of overtime alongside with no pay rise for 2020.

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

Unite national officer for the drinks industry Joe Clarke said: “Our members have suffered great financial hardship during the pandemic, with some of the losing up to £10,000 through being furloughed and picking up no overtime, so it is no surprise 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.

“The company had offered a paltry 1.4%, which is well below the current RPI inflation rate of 3.9%. Meanwhile, the draymen have been working flat out currently to meet the high demand for beer volumes in our pubs as society continues to reopen."

Industrial action looms

Clarke added: “The threat of a late summer beer drought now increases for Britain’s thirsty beer drinkers as our members make 40% of the beer deliveries in the country.

“This disruption would be on top of the ‘pingdemic’ and the well-publicised HGV driver shortages​ that are already hitting the sector.

“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.”

A GXO Logistics Drinks spokesperson said the company favoured dialogue in all its negotiations and outlined its stance on the strike action.

They added: “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.”

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