Unite is to ballot staff at Morrisons over the supermarket group's decision to outsource three northern transport hubs and vehicle maintenance operations to Wincanton.

The union announced today (19 June) that nearly 400 Morrisons drivers and mechanics will be asked whether they wish to proceed to a full-scale industrial ballot, which would pave the way for strike action.

Ballot papers for the initial vote have been sent to members at the affected sites in Gadbrook, Cheshire; Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham; and Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

The move follows Wincanton’s announcement last week that it had been awarded a five-year contract to run Morrisons’ transport operation at the DCs from August, as well as handling vehicle maintenance at a number of sites via its Pullman Fleet Services subsidiary.

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Unite national officer for road transport and logistics, Adrian Jones, said: “Our members have been working directly for Morrisons for many years, some of them for up to 30 years, and feel let down that this decision has been made without the involvement of their trade union."

He warned that if the transfer of Unite members to a third party was not stopped, "there is a very real prospect of strike action later in the summer" that could disrupt deliveries to stores in the north.

“However, Unite’s door is always open for constructive talks with Morrisons to resolve this dispute," Jones added.

In a statement given to motortransport.co.uk, Morrisons said it hoped to engage with Unite through a series of meetings to be held with employee representatives.

The Morrisons spokesman said: "We want to talk to all our colleagues' representatives and we hope to see Unite at our consultative meetings over the coming days. We want to listen to what they say about this agreement, which transfers our colleagues' jobs to a leading logistics company with comparable terms and conditions. There will be no job losses."

Unite's consultative ballot closes on Monday 24 June.

A spokesman for Wincanton said the operator was unable to comment at this time.