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MORE than 350 DHL staff at Sainsbury’s Dartford distribution centre are to be balloted for industrial action after a union rep was suspended “for representing a colleague.”
Unite said that its move follows a number of incidents of attempted union-busting at DHL sites across the country, leading it to believe that the international courier company is “testing the water” during the pandemic to see whether it can undermine union activity.
The Dartford ballot was called after a Unite steward providing support to a member of staff during an investigation was suspended after challenging a manager’s version of the events concerned.
Unite regional officer Phil Silkstone said that the company’s excuse — that the rep was being aggressive — had been “flatly contradicted” by a neutral third party.
In December, DHL managers called police “at least 10 times” to a picket line in Liverpool where workers on a Burton Biscuits contract were striking over low pay, victimisation and a breakdown of industrial relations.
The union says that its reps have also been targeted or simply disregarded at sites in Halewood, Merseyside, and Solihull in the West Midlands.
Unite national officer Matt Draper said: “A recent change in the management structure at DHL has led to a number of worrying incidents at different sites where union reps and staff have been targeted.
“We believe the breakdown in industrial relations is due to a new approach by management, who seem to be testing the waters during the uncertainty of the pandemic to see if union activity, and the protections it affords to staff, can be weakened.”
Urging DHL to “see sense,” Mr Silkstone said that Sainsbury’s would “not be pleased” to be facing disruption to its supply chain in the run-up to the Easter period.
A spokesperson for DHL Supply Chain said that the firm was “disappointed” by the industrial action ballot, adding: “As ever, we remain willing to work with the union to reach a satisfactory outcome for both parties,” but that “contingency plans are being drawn up to minimise any impact on deliveries.”
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