Strikes involving GXO drivers on the outsourced Co-op contract have been suspended after the company put forward an improved pay offer.

More than 330 lorry drivers and transport clerks based at GXO’s distribution centre in St Helens were due to hold an initial 48 hour strike beginning on Tuesday 31 May.

But following an improved pay offer, the first strike has been called off to allow members of the Unite union to be balloted on the new offer.

If the offer is rejected then the remaining 19 48-hour strikes scheduled throughout June, July and August will go ahead as planned.

The dispute centres on pay rates, with the union claiming drivers are paid £14.77 an hour, but those employed on comparable contracts are often paid over £17 an hour.

Unite regional officer Kenny Rowe said: “Following the announcement of strike action GXO made an improved pay offer and as an act of good faith the initial strike has been suspended to allow members to be balloted.

“If our members decide that the offer does not meet their expectations the remaining strikes will go ahead as planned.”

Industrial action would affect 466 Co-op stores including in the Lake District, Leeds, Hereford and Aberystwyth.