Christmas crisp shortage warning with strike action considered by lorry drivers

News

A “crisp shortage” could be on the cards for Christmas ahead of potential strike action in UK supermarkets, a trade union has claimed.

Unite has warned that a pay dispute between lorry drivers and management at haulage firm Eddie Stobart is likely to result in industrial action.

The row has broken out at the firm’s northwest distribution centre in Warrington, which deals with the company’s Walkers Crisps account, the Liverpool Echo reports.

The union believes the transport giant is reneging on a 2019 deal that recognised Unite as having a collective bargaining agreement.

A ballot for strike action will open on December 1 and will close on December 9.

The trade union has said that if the strike goes ahead it will likely start in the Christmas week, resulting in a “festive crisp famine”.

However, Walkers said in a statement that they are confident the issue will not cause any shortage of crisps at Christmas.

Up to 40 employees could walk out as part of the strike action.

The union accused Stobart of “a series of broken promises” and warned the result could mean shortage of Walkers Crisps over Christmas and New Year.

In spring last year, Unite said strike action was averted “at the eleventh hour” after the firm agreed to recognise them as a union and part of workers’ rights discussions.

Unite regional officer Steve Gerrard said: “Our members were designated as key workers and worked throughout the pandemic and despite all their efforts Eddie Stobart believes that it is acceptable to impose a pay freeze.

“It was Karl Marx who said history repeats itself, first as tragedy and second as farce, but there is nothing funny about Stobart reneging on its agreement last year to recognise Unite and allow it to be involved in pay negotiations.

“If strike action does occur, and with major retailers relying on just-in-time delivery systems, especially at the busiest time of the year, there will quickly be empty shelves in supermarkets, where Walkers’ products are usually found.

“Industrial action is always taken as a last resort, but Unite members believe they have no option but to ballot for strike action to ensure that Stobart tables a fair pay offer and honours its previous commitments.

“It is not too late for Stobart’s management to avert industrial action by seeing sense and entering into proper pay negotiations, fully involving Unite and its officials and making a fair pay offer.”

A Walkers spokesperson said: “We are confident this issue will not result in a shortage of crisps this Christmas.

“We are aware a union is planning industrial action with some lorry drivers working for our distribution supplier.

“There are contingency plans in place so that shelves will remain stocked.”