Budgens and Londis stores in Kent face strike threat by drivers at Booker's Thamesmead depot


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Convenience stores across the county could see deliveries disrupted after a threat of yet more industrial action by lorry drivers.

Yesterday it was revealed Sainsbury's faces empty shelves as part of a pay row by staff at its Dartford distribution centre. And just last week, pubs breathed a sigh of relief after a proposed strike by draymen was suspended.

Londis and Budgens are both owned by Booker - which in turn is owned by Tesco. Picture: Chris Davey
Londis and Budgens are both owned by Booker - which in turn is owned by Tesco. Picture: Chris Davey

It comes amid a significant shortage of HGV drivers nationwide which has already brought disruption and uncertainty to supply chains.

Now drivers at a distribution centre in Thamesmead for wholesale giant Booker Retail Partners are threatening to walk out.

They deliver to 1,500 Budgens and Londis convenience stores - both of which are operated by Booker - across London and the South East.

Union Unite says Booker, which in turn is owned by Tesco, has "attempted to bypass negotiations with the drivers' union" by putting a pay proposal directly to staff.

The offer, however, is far below the settlement Unite negotiated for its drivers based at Booker’s depot in Hemel Hempstead in July, who were to receive a £5 an hour increase in pay.

The situation is exacerbated by a shortage of lorry drivers, nationwide
The situation is exacerbated by a shortage of lorry drivers, nationwide

And Unite says it has "incensed" more than 40 of its members at its Thamesmead site who are currently being balloted for strike action as the result of the failure of the company to grant them an uplift in line with that received by the Hemel Hempstead workforce.

A strike ballot will take place on Friday, September 3.

If approved, strike action could begin next month.

Unite regional officer Paul Travers said: “Booker’s ham-fisted decision to attempt to cut Unite out of negotiations has made a bad situation worse.

“Our drivers are not going to be hoodwinked into accepting a deal which is lower than what they have already been offered.

Londis stores could be hit by the proposed strike action. Picture: Paul Amos
Londis stores could be hit by the proposed strike action. Picture: Paul Amos

“The offer of a bonus in both December and March has more strings than an orchestra and our members already believe that most will never receive this payment.

“Rather than head off strike action our members at Thamesmead are now more determined than ever to support strike action, while the prospect of industrial action spreading to other depots has increased.

“If Booker want to stop their entire operation from grinding to a halt, they need to withdraw this misguided offer and get round the table with Unite to agree a deal which meets our members expectations and acknowledges that the lorry driver shortage means that pay must permanently increase.”

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