Morrisons has terminated its transport contract with Wincanton “with immediate effect” and handed the entire operation over to Stobart, a year earlier than its original agreed length.

In a message from the supermarket’s leadership team to managers on 16 March and seen by, Morrisons said the contract had ended and that “all logistics transport operations in Stockton, Wakefield, Gadbrook and Willow Green will move to Eddie Stobart, part of the Culina Group.

“The planning operations teams in these sites will transfer back to Morrisons.”

The message added: “We will support the TUPE process alongside Eddie Stobart and Wincanton for the transport and planning teams.”

The five-year contract, understood to be worth £70m per annum in turnover, was originally handed to Wincanton in 2019 and incorporated three of the supermarket’s sites.

In 2020 Morrisons handed it additional transport and vehicle maintenance operations at its Willow Green logistics premises in Bridgwater.

In Wincanton’s financial results for 2020, the 3PL said revenue in its retail grocery division had increased by 26% partly due to the Morrisons deal, as well as new contract wins with Co-op and Sainsbury’s.

The surprise early termination of the contract will be another headache for Wincanton, which issued a profits warning earlier this month after it lost a major contract with HM Revenue and Customs.

Read more

The reason for the contract loss remained unclear; a Morrisons’ spokeswoman said: “The contract between Wincanton and Morrisons has ended and we are in the process of consolidating our outsourced logistics operations with Eddie Stobart Logistics, who are already a major partner.

“There are no jobs at risk because all roles involved will transfer to either Eddie Stobart or to Morrisons.”

The spokeswoman declined to comment further.

However, Stobart said it was now in the process of transferring over the contract to its own operations: “Our primary focus at this time is the people and reassuring them that their jobs are safe and that it is business as usual,” added a Stobart spokesman.

The trade union Unite, which was in dispute with Wincanton last year over a pay deal for drivers on the Morrisons contract, said it was “fully aware of the situation”.

Adrian Jones, Unite national officer, said: “The union has secured a full and proper consultation process to be undertaken prior to any TUPE transfer.

“Unite’s absolute priority is to inform, support and protect our members during this stressful and uncertain period.”

A spokesman for Wincanton said: “We confirm that the contract between Wincanton and Morrisons has ended with immediate effect.

“We are mindful of the well-being of our colleagues and are prioritising them in the transition to the new provider.

“We are pleased to have added a number of major new business wins this financial year with the likes of The White Company, IKEA, Wickes, Howdens, and DFS and remain confident in the outlook for new business in the near future.”