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Eddie Stobart said its robust contingency plans would ensure the delivery of Walkers crisps to supermarkets were not disrupted, after HGV drivers geared up for strike action over a pay dispute.

Workers at the company’s Warrington depot on the Walkers Pepsico contract have been following an overtime ban instigated by the Unite union since 26 December, but with no end to the dispute in sight they are now preparing for four days of strikes.

Unite said HGV drivers returned a 96.7% vote in favour of strike action, which it said followed a decision by Eddie Stobart to enforce a pay freeze and refuse to enter into negotiations.

It claimed that due to the nature of just-in-time deliveries, Walkers products would swiftly disappear from shelves once strike action commenced.

But a spokeswoman for the company said its customer would continue to be supported: “We’re aware that a number of colleagues are planning industrial action with regards to a pay award for 2020,” she said.

“We have robust contingency plans in place to continue to support our customers and we remain committed to ensuring job security, for all our workforce at this difficult time.”

Unite said further overtime bans start on 23 January until 16 February, followed by four days of strikes, from 17 February until 20 February.

More strike action has been scheduled by Unite into March.

Steve Gerrard, Unite regional officer, said: “The Walkers contract is highly lucrative yet Eddie Stobart is refusing to even enter into pay negotiations.

“The affected drivers have worked throughout the pandemic and the only thanks they are set to receive is a real terms pay cut.

“Management at Eddie Stobart is guilty of using the Covid-19 pandemic for forcing through a pay cut on its workers.”