DHL Supply Chain said it was “disappointed” that a trade union was talking up the prospect of its drivers striking over pay when scheduled negotiations were still due to take place.

A ballot of 200 HGV drivers delivering for Sainsbury’s out of the Dartford distribution centre resulted in a 98% vote in favour of taking industrial action, according to Unite.

It said they were unhappy with the “insulting offer” of a 1% pay rise amid a UK-wide driver shortage crisis.

Unite said strikes could result in empty shelves at Sainsbury’s stores in London and the South East.

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Sainsbury’s said it was continuing to encourage both sides to keep talking and a spokeswoman for DHL said: “We are disappointed that Unite is referencing the possibility of future industrial action at our Dartford depot.

“Further pay talks are scheduled, where we are confident of reaching a satisfactory outcome for both parties.”

Unite regional officer Phil Silkstone said: “National HGV driver shortages are all over the news, so how DHL thought it was going to get away with an insulting offer of a 1% pay rise is beyond me.

“Our members have signalled that they are willing to take strike action and we will now be moving to opening a formal industrial action ballot.”