Strike action by Tesco HGV drivers and warehouse workers has been suspended after the supermarket giant offered them a 5.5% pay increase.

Earlier this week, the Unite union said its members at Tesco distribution centres in Antrim, Belfast, Didcot and Doncaster would stage a series of strikes before and after Christmas, raising the prospect of empty shelves for shoppers during one of the busiest times of the year.

However, last minute talks were then held and Unite said workers are now being offered a minimum 5.5% increase backdated to July 2021 and an additional 0.5% from February 2022.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Tesco’s improved offer shows what can be achieved by our members standing together.

“Given that the company has forecast profits for 2021 topping £2.5 billion an improved offer is the least Tesco workers could expect.”

In addition Unite has secured an agreement with Tesco for a formal dialogue on revising the current system of legacy and new generation contracts.

If agreed it said this would create a single pay scale for all the work being undertaken in the distribution centres.

Unite will now ballot its members on the deal and is recommending its acceptance.

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If the deal is rejected by the members then fresh strike action will be announced, although the union said this was unlikely to be before January 2022.

Unite national officer Adrian Jones said: “Right from the beginning of this dispute Unite has been clear that Tesco could afford to make a more generous offer and that has proved to be the case.

“It is now up to Unite’s members to decide if the proposed deal meets their expectations.”

The negotiations did not encompass the Unite members employed at the Livingston distribution centre in Scotland who have also announced strike action.

An update about this dispute is expected in the coming days.

A Tesco spokeswoman said: “We’re pleased to have agreed a pay deal with Unite that it recommends to its members.

“Colleagues at these centres will no longer be taking industrial action.

“We look forward to delivering a fantastic Christmas for customers.”