Wincanton drivers on the Argos contract will see their annual earnings jump by nearly a third to £35,100, according to the Unite union after it secured a huge pay increase for them.

Over 90 HGV drivers based at the company’s Heywood depot in Greater Manchester have had their basic rate of pay increased from £11.41 an hour to £15 an hour – as well as a lump sum payment of £2,500.

Unite said it was currently in pay talks with other employers managing similar contracts in the North West and it anticipated that this pay deal would act as a catalyst for “realistic pay offers” elsewhere.

Kenny Rowe, Unite regional officer, said: “Lorry drivers have been chronically undervalued and underpaid for too long.

“Employers have to understand that if they want to have sufficient drivers to deliver their goods, they need to pay a fair rate of pay which reflects the skills and responsibility needed to drive a heavy goods vehicle.”

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Wincanton declined to comment on the pay rise; however, writing in The Telegraph earlier this week, chief executive James Wroath said competition for people was “intense” and that many people were refusing permanent jobs because they can make as much money through agency jobs, with greater flexibility.

Wroath said: “We know we need to pay people more and look at initiatives such as signing on bonuses and training incentives.

“But these represent a small step in tackling the structural challenges we face to ensure our country’s supply chain is properly resourced and capable of meeting the needs of a resurgent economy and in particular the continued shift to online retail.”

He added: “For too long, we have failed to replenish the ranks of our drivers with younger recruits, deterred by unsociable hours and a lack of appreciation for the skill and responsibility required in the role.

“We need more diversity, including greater female representation. We also need creativity and flexibility around shift patterns, and more investment in facilities and amenities.

“The demand is there,” Wroath said. “At Wincanton, we have close to 600 vacancies for driver roles, and we anticipate we will receive over 3,000 applications.”