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Union threatens pre-Christmas ‘bread drought’ across the Midlands if West Bromwich strike goes ahead

By Simon Penfold | West Bromwich | Business | Published:

Union bosses are threatening a 'bread drought' across the Midlands and North West if drivers at the Kingsmill bakery in West Bromwich go on strike over a pay dispute.

The Allied Bakeries Kingsmill site on Birmingham Road in West Bromwich where 130 drivers and other staff are being balloted over strike action

They deliver 1.5 million loaves each week to Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco and are being balloted over strike action this week.

But bosses at Kingsmill owner Allied Bakeries say they have plans in place if strike action does take place.

A spokesperson said: "Should industrial action at our West Bromwich site go ahead, we are confident that we will still be in a position to deliver fresh bread to all our grocery retail customers. We have robust contingency plans in place, and are changing a number of delivery routes to mitigate the risk of any disruption."

About 130 drivers, maintenance staff and security personnel – members of Unite – are being balloted this week for strike action in a dispute over what the union calls ‘a paltry pay offer’. They are among 400 people who work at the site, Allied's biggest UK bakery.

The Birmingham Road site produces 1.5 million loaves a week, as well as rolls and muffins, and the union says of there is a strike before Christmas, the regions which will bear the brunt of any bread shortage would be the West and East Midlands, and the North West.

Bakery bosses have offered a two per cent pay rise, plus £150 for the year starting April 2017 and the same offer for the year starting April 2018.

The company spokesperson added: “We’ve been discussing possible pay agreements with our delivery drivers and their union representatives at West Brom since May. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet come to a settlement and are naturally disappointed that the union has now decided to initiate a ballot of their members at the site for industrial action.

“As a responsible and respected local employer we are always open to discussion with our employees.”

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However, Unite says Kingsmill drivers earn between £26,000 and £28,000-a-year, while drivers employed by Sainsbury’s are on £42,000 and those working for food delivery giant Culina take home £33,000.

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.

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“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.”

Simon Penfold

By Simon Penfold
Business Editor - @SPenfold_star

Business Editor based at the Express & Star's head office in Wolverhampton, looking for stories big & small.

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