DONCASTER’S Tesco drivers will go back out on strike after rejecting the latest ‘completely unsatisfactory’ offer in a long-running dispute.
The 180 lorry drivers, who face being unemployed by Christmas, have said they feel ‘boxed into a corner’ by their new employer Eddie Stobart Ltd (ESL) following their transfer from Tesco in August.
However, ESL have hit back saying the redundancy package was ‘substantial’ and that drivers should feel ‘let down’ by its union representation Unite.
Adrian Jones, Unite union’s national officer, said: “The latest offer to settle this long-running dispute was completely unsatisfactory to our members who feel that they have been boxed into a corner by the hard-hearted ESL management.
“The drivers feel that ESL wanted to get rid of them right from when they were transferred from Tesco to Stobart’s in August. Unite believes that this has been the company’s agenda all along.”
Mr Jones said the priority was to save jobs and that drivers would ‘fight on, buoyed up by the magnificent support from the Doncaster public’.
ESL said that drivers voted against the company’s ‘improved offer which would have seen them benefit from a 50 per cent increase on their statutory maximum pay’, proposed after two days of talks facilitated by ACAS.
ESL added: “In addition to the substantial redundancy package, Eddie Stobart and Tesco also made 212 job opportunities available to the affected drivers – 90 warehousing positions and 122 driving jobs. Any driver who takes up one of those alternative roles will receive a financial support package equal to 75 per cent of their redundancy allowance. This offer remains available to drivers until the end of the consultancy period on December 5.”
David Pickering, Eddie Stobart managing director, said: “We’ve worked hard over the last 10 weeks with Unite, and more recently with ACAS, to come up with the best possible financial package for the drivers. Our proposal was a 50 per cent increase in their statutory redundancy pay which would have seen them benefit from significant financial support so it’s disappointing to see them lose out.
“I’m sure they will feel let down by their representation from Unite. Had Unite concentrated on negotiations, rather than industrial action, then the drivers would be much better off financially.”
Unite’s Mr Jones added: “ESL has issued a press statement that is antagonistic in the extreme. Our main aim as a union has been to protect jobs for the long-term; jobs that are secure and provide permanent employment in the Doncaster area.
“We have discussed a financial settlement with ESL for the drivers – but our priority is to save jobs.
“The drivers overwhelmingly rejected the financial offer which was designed to get them out the door and not to maintain employment.
“Tesco should hang its head in shame at what it has done to this committed and hard working group of drivers.”
The strike is due to take place from 12.05am on Thursday, December 6.