There are over 140 DHL lorry drivers employed by Sainsbury’s in the south west

Sainsbury’s stores across the south west may face pre-Christmas shortages if DHL lorry drivers go ahead with strike action over a pay dispute, the union Unite said.

Over 140 lorry drivers employed by DHL are responsible for undertaking deliveries across the region on an outsourced contract with Sainsbury’s.

The drivers are set to vote on strike action after DHL offered them a 3% pay increase over an 18-month period, which fell bellow workers’ expectations.

The ballot is set to open on 11 November and close on 25 November. Unite said that if the drivers vote for strike action, these could begin as early as the second week of December – causing “considerable disruption” to Christmas supplies.

“Lorry drivers are key workers who are vital to our economy, they will not accept poverty pay or real terms pay cuts any longer,” said Unite general secretary Sharon Graham.

“In recent months Unite has won a large number of significant pay increases for lorry driver members as a result of the union’s renewed focus on defending the jobs, pay and conditions of our members.

“The union will be providing its full support to our members in this dispute for a fair day’s pay.”

A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said: “We continue to encourage both sides to keep talking.”

This follows a similar dispute at DHL for Sainsbury’s lorry drivers in Dartford, who managed to secure a pay increase.

“Our members are balloting for strike action as, despite protracted negotiations, DHL has failed to make a reasonable pay offer,” said Unite regional officer Shevaun Hunt.

“Even at this late stage, DHL can still avoid strike action by returning to the negotiating table and making an offer which meets workers’ expectations.”

The potential strikes affecting the retailer in the south west add to the list of industrial action ballots that Unite is holding for lorry drivers and warehouse workers employed on supermarket contracts over pay.

A group of 3,500 Tesco lorry drivers and warehouse workers at the Belfast, Didcot, Doncaster and Thurrock regional distribution centres are currently being balloted over a pay dispute.