THERE could be a shortage of bread in England’s Midlands and north-west before Christmas if delivery workers end up striking over pay, it was revealed yesterday.
Unite the union said that industrial action by Kingsmill workers in West Bromwich could result in a “bread drought” and freshly made produce going to waste if there are no deliveries to the major supermarkets.
The drivers deliver 1.5 million loaves a day, as well as rolls, muffins and toasties.
Maintenance and security staff are also balloting on strike action, and 130 Unite members are involved in the dispute.
The union says rival firms are paying their staff up to £14,000 a year more.
And drivers at Kingsmill’s Stockport bakery are paid £1,500 a year more than the West Bromwich staff, which Unite says raises an issue over equal pay at the company.
The West Bromwich workers have rejected a below-inflation 2 per cent plus £150 wage increase that would be backdated to April and would also be offered for next year starting in April 2018.
Unite dismissed the proposed increase as “paltry.”
Unite lead officer for the food sector Joe Clarke said: “What we have here is a highly profitable global company paying our Kingsmill members well below what competitors are paying their drivers for the same work. In some cases, the differential is as much as £14,000 a year, which is totally unacceptable.
“Then it has the nerve to add insult to injury by offering a paltry pay deal far below the current rate of inflation. Our members want a fair offer that reflects the cost of living.
“A strike could cause havoc to bread deliveries to supermarkets such as Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco across the north-west and the Midlands, as 1.5 million loaves a week won’t be delivered.
“Customers of major supermarkets in these regions seeking bread and other bakery products in the run-up to Christmas could be faced with bread shortages.
“So you will have a situation where loaves will be coming off the production lines but no-one will be delivering them.
“There will be ‘bread mountains’ at the West Bromwich depot, but a ‘bread drought’ across great swathes of England.”