As many as 1,500 Booker convenience stores across London and the south east could face delivery shortages over a pay rise offered by the country’s biggest supermarket
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Hundreds of Booker convenience stores across the UK are facing more food shortages after lorry drivers threatened to walk out over a pay disparity by owner Tesco.
As many as 1,500 convenience stores across London and the south east could face delivery shortages over a pay rise offered by the country’s biggest grocer.
Tesco implemented a £5-an-hour pay rise for drivers at its Booker depot in Hemel Hempstead but refused to pay a similar increase to HGV drivers at its Thamesmead site, union Unite said.
According to the union, bosses from the supermarket’s wholesale division, Booker, were “missing in action” after failing to engage in talks about the discrepancies.
Drivers will now be balloted on whether to take strike action unless bosses match bonuses paid to drivers in other parts of the country.
Tesco implemented a £5-an-hour pay rise for drivers at its Booker depot in Hemel Hempstead but refused to pay a similar increase to HGV drivers at its Thamesmead site, Unite said.
Drivers at the warehouse deliver products under the Budgens and Londis brands to around 1500 convenience stores in the south east.
Unite accused the company of “burying its head in the sand” as the HGV driver shortage across the country escalates due to an ageing workforce who are retiring.
The so-called “pingdemic”, has triggered a shortage of drivers, with the DVSA forced to recruit dozens more examiners to help replace drivers that moved to Europe during the pandemic.
It led to Tesco, M&S and Aldi to all offer pay rises or bonuses to drivers to help keep shelves stocked.
“Despite the company indicating that it wanted to get pay talks started early to address the issue, the top managers have gone ‘missing in action’,” Unite regional officer Paul Travers said.
“We understand the general manager is on holiday and another senior manager has just disappeared from the scene.
“At a time when the country faces the worst HGV driver shortage in modern times with an estimated 100,000 vacancies in the industry, it is the height of irresponsibility that there is no executive for Unite to negotiate with, it is worthy of a Fawlty Towers episode.
“Our Thamesmead members are outraged at the disrespect the management and the company as a whole have shown them, they are very angry as they ballot for industrial action.
“We are gaining new members from other employees disgusted at the company’s contemptuous attitude.”
There is also understood to be a large backlog in HGV driver tests, again because of the pandemic, meaning it’s been harder to get new drivers on the road.
More recently, scores of drivers are also being asked to self-isolate after being notified by the NHS Covid app as the “pingdemic” takes a toll on staff levels.
In response to the shortage, the government has ramped up testing for lorry drivers, is paying for more apprentices and is allowing current drivers to increase their working hours.
The new rules mean drivers can increase their daily driving limit twice a week from nine hours to 11 hours.
Even before Covid, the estimated shortage of drivers was about 60,000.