shutterstock_1167258199 (2) (1)

Wholesaler Booker Retail Partners is facing a summer of uncertainty after HGV drivers at its south east London depot were offered the chance to vote for strike action in a row over pay.

Amid a chronic shortage of professional drivers, Booker said it was working with the union Unite to resolve a growing threat of strikes following claims that it increased the pay at its Hemel Hempstead site, but not at its Thamesmead depot.

Drivers will now balloted up to the end of August for strike action and industrial action short of a strike.

Unite said industrial action would impact deliveries to more than 1,500 convenience stores across London and the south east.

The union claimed Booker, which supplies retailers such as Budgens and Londis, put in place a temporary £5 an hour pay increase for some of its drivers due to the ongoing shortage, but refused a similar uplift for 30 drivers in Thamesmead.

“The drivers are paid a low rate of pay,” said Paul Travers, Unite regional officer.

“The company seems to think this is acceptable and has consistently refused to meet our demand for a temporary uplift until pay negotiations start in September.

“Due to the shortage of HGV drivers, pay rates are increasing rapidly across the industry and the management are burying their heads in the sand over this development.”

A Booker spokesman told “The industry shortage of HGV drivers has created some distribution challenges but we’re doing everything we can to ensure customers can get the products they need.

“We are working closely with our suppliers, our colleagues at our distribution centres and Unite to manage the issue and find the best way forward.”