The first of a series of strikes by Gist drivers over a pay dispute has been suspended for talks to take place, though plans for a further 11 strikes remain.

The 24-hour strike by around 20 drivers at Gist's M&S distribution centre in Hemel Hempstead, which delivers food to stores across London and the South East, was due to begin at midnight last night (30 June).

But the Unite union announced yesterday that the strike would not be going ahead, and that it was meeting Gist management with concilation service Acas today.

The dispute centres around 20 drivers, employed on a local agreement, who earn around £8,000 a year less than an estimated 280 staff members doing the same job on Gist's national policy.

The remaining 11 strikes for which union members voted unanimously are scheduled for weekends leading up to15 September.

Unite regional officer Alan Brkljac said: "We will be holding talks with the management under the umbrella of Acas and we will be entering into those negotiations in a constructive frame of mind.

“As a result of these talks, tomorrow’s 24-hour strike by about 20 of our members has been suspended. However, we have 11 more 24-hour strikes planned if we can’t reach a satisfactory agreement."