Tesco shoppers could face empty shelves in the run-up to Christmas as HGV drivers and warehouse workers based at its depots in Antrim, Belfast, Didcot and Doncaster plan to take strike action over pay.

The dispute flared after workers were offered a 4% pay increase, which is 2% below the current retail price index (RPI) inflation rate of 6%.

Unite said the workforce is “particularly angry” that Tesco is trying to force them into a real terms pay cut, when the supermarket giant is predicting an operating profit of £2.6bn for the current financial year.

The union has announced that Tesco’s Didcot and Doncaster sites will see an initial 48-hour strike beginning at 6am on Thursday 16 December.

This will be followed by a five-day pre-Christmas strike beginning on Monday 20 December.

There will be a further 48-hour strike beginning on Thursday 30 December and a three-day strike beginning on 5 January 2022 at Doncaster and Didcot.

Unite members at the Antrim and Belfast Tesco distribution centres will begin an all-out continuous strike from 7am on Thursday 16 December.

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Unite is also balloting its members for strike action at Tesco’s distribution centre in Livingston. The ballot closes today (Monday 6 December). If workers vote for industrial action they will be likely to join the strike action before Christmas.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Our members have gone above and beyond the call of duty to keep Tesco’s shelves filled throughout the pandemic. At the very least the UK’s largest and wealthiest retailer should be making our members a decent pay offer.

“Unite always prioritises the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and it will be giving its full and total support to our members at Tesco until this dispute is resolved.”

Unite national officer Adrian Jones said: “Unite is taking strike action as a last resort having exhausted all other options.

“Even at this late stage Tesco could still avoid severe disruption in its stores by returning to the negotiating table and making a greatly improved offer.”

A Tesco spokeswoman said: “Our distribution colleagues have worked tirelessly through the pandemic in order to keep products moving for customers. The pay offer we have made is a fair recognition of this.”

She added: “We welcome the decision by our colleagues at the sites who have voted against industrial action. We are disappointed that some have voted to proceed, and we have contingency plans in place to help mitigate any impacts."