Britain is facing the threat of a beer shortage after 1,000 draymen who deliver some of the most popular lager and ale brands voted for industrial action.
Draymen are due to strike ahead of the August bank holiday weekend in a dispute over pay.
Unite the union said there will be two 24-hour strikes, the first starting at 10.00 on Tuesday 24 August and then at 10.00 on Thursday 2 September. This will be accompanied by an overtime ban and work to rule starting on 24 August and continuing up to Monday 15 November.
Unite said that its members, employed by GXO Logistics Drinks Ltd (previously XPO Logistics Drinks Ltd), are based at 26 sites and are responsible for about 40 per cent of the beer deliveries to pubs and other hospitality outlets across the UK.
Around 1,000 draymen from GXO Logistics Drinks have voted unanimously to strike over “paltry” pay, with 97% voting in favour of industrial action.
Following the company’s 1.4% pay rise offer, workers are demanding GXO increases this to 3.9% to match RPI inflation.
The drivers will take part in two 24-hour strikes that threaten beer supplies to GXO customers around the August bank holiday weekend, and restocking afterwards. The strikes are planned for 24 August and 2 September.
Truck drivers will also work to rule and undertake an overtime ban which will last nearly three months, from 24 August to 15 November.
Worker frustration over the pay offer has been further exacerbated by estimates they have already lost between £8,000 and £10,000 over the past year due to furlough and lack of overtime, coupled with pay freezes in 2020.
Meanwhile, beer demand has increased significantly since the lifting of lockdown restrictions, with Heineken reporting its revenues were up 14.1% to reach £8.5bn over six months to June 2021.
The strikes will increase pressures on the hospitality industry following driver shortages, warned Joe Clarke, national officer for the drinks industry at Unite.
Clarke said: “Draymen have been working flat out to meet the high demand for beer volumes in our pubs as society continues to reopen.
“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,” Clarke added.