By Daniel Hunter
Unite, Britain's biggest union, has given notice of strike action to KNDL (Kuehne + Nagel Drinks Logistics) meaning there could be significant disruption to almost 30,000 drinking establishments across the UK.
The deliveries of Fosters, Heineken, Kronenbourg, John Smith’s, Strongbow, plus Britvic soft drinks will be affected as workers prepare to strike for 24 hours from 10.00 on Wednesday 11 September to 10.00 on Thursday 12 September. There will also be a continuous ban on overtime and a work-to-rule.
Pubs and premises run by Enterprise Inns, Trust Inns, Wetherspoons, and Wells and Young’s will be badly affected. The company also supplies airports, courts, sports clubs, including Premiership football clubs, recreational centres, theatres and cinemas, health clubs, military camps, working men’s clubs and the hospitality industry (see notes to editors for details).
Unite is warning that it could step up action, unless the company works with the union to resolve the dispute.
The issue at the centre of the dispute is the way the company has breached the National Ways Agreement which governs the terms and conditions of the workforce. The workers believe the changes being proposed will lead to significant jobs losses.
Unite’s repeated attempts over the last four months to rectify these breaches have been met with intransigence by the management and, as a last resort, workers voted by 85 per cent in favour of strike action on a turnout of 64 per cent. The union balloted 970 drivers, drayman and warehouse members.
The depots affected include: Aberdeen; Bathgate (West Lothian); Birmingham; Bristol; Chandlers Ford (Hampshire); Carlisle; Croydon; Dagenham; Devizes (Wiltshire); Dundee; Faversham (Kent); Greenford (Middlesex); Inverness; Liverpool; Manchester; Newark (Nottinghamshire); Northampton; Norwich; Plymouth; Preston; Reading; Stockton-on-Tees (Cleveland); Swansea; Wakefield; Warrington; Washington (Tyne and Wear); and Welwyn Garden City.
In a restructuring exercise called the Beethoven Project, KNDL wants to introduce three super hubs at Livingstone (West Lothian), Thatcham, near Newbury, and Wakefield from which beer, cider, lager and soft drinks will then be distributed to the above depots.
At present the 29 depots (those above and Anglesey and Hereford which operate on different contracts) will be affected by the changes) hold a supply of stocks that they can quickly and efficiently deliver to the pubs and licensed premises in their locality.
Unite said that the downsides to this proposal include:
Supplies could be delayed by accidents/disruptions on the motorways
Cask conditioned beer could be unsettled by the long journeys
It is environmentally unfriendly, necessitating more HGV journeys on already overcrowded roads
KNDL will be spending considerably more on diesel each year as a result of travelling massively increased distances
It increases the chances that publicans will not receive the deliveries they have ordered at the time they wanted
There are already cases of publicans being highly dissatisfied with this service
It removes flexibility and speed of response to demands that the local depots currently provide
Unite national officer, Rhys McCarthy said: "KNDL's refusal to take our concerns seriously means there will be significant disruption to the supply of beer right across the country. Whether it's the Houses of Parliament, Manchester City football club or your local Wetherspoons' pub there will be serious consequences.
"We have tried to negotiate with the company but it has stubbornly refused to solve this dispute.
"Our members are proud of their jobs and they know that the present system for delivering beer works and customers are happy.
"The changes being pushed through will not work. They will eventually lead to job losses and will cause enormous problems with deliveries to customers. For drinkers up and down the country, it could even affect the quality of cask conditioned beer. We urge KNDL management to return to the negotiating table."