A late summer ‘beer drought' could be the latest challenge the hospitality industry has to contend with, as around 1,000 draymen, who deliver brands such as Heineken and are responsible for about 40% of the beer deliveries to pubs and other hospitality outlets across the UK, have voted for industrial action.
Unite the union said there will be two 24-hour strikes, the first starting at 10am on Tuesday 24 August and then at 10am on Thursday 2 September. This will be accompanied by an overtime ban and work to rule starting on 24 August and continuing to Monday 15 November.
Unite said that its members, employed by GXO Logistics Drinks (previously XPO Logistics Drinks), were based at 26 sites and voted for strike action by 97% and for industrial action short of a strike by 99% over the company's offer of a 1.4% pay rise for 2021.
The union said workers had lost between £8,000 and £10,000 over the last year due to furlough and lack of overtime, with no pay increase for 2020.
Unite's national officer for the drinks industry Joe Clarke said: "Our members have suffered great financial hardship during the pandemic, with some of them losing up to £10,000 through being furloughed and picking up no overtime, so it is no surprise that they have voted almost unanimously for industrial action. Our mandate for such action is resounding and reflects the deep anger felt by our members over their treatment by the bosses.
"The company had offered a paltry 1.4%, which is well below the current RPI inflation rate of 3.9%. Meanwhile, the 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."
A GXO spokesperson said: "We favour dialogue in all our negotiations. Discussions are ongoing in order to reach agreement, in particular for the hospitality sector that is only now emerging from the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown."