Delivery workers at logistics giant DHL's Castle Bromwich and Solihull plants supplying Jaguar Land Rover's production lines have voted for a strike as a pay row escalated, threatening to close key assembly lines within weeks.
A shutdown at the luxury car manufacturer's hubs could potentially affect the UK's economic recovery and growth prospects, as Jaguar Land Rover is the biggest exporter of manufactured goods. The company is one of the most profitable global car makers, with ever-increasing sales of its luxury cars in China, Russia and America in the past two years.
The walkout is threatened by staff almost 1,000 staff at logistics group DHL, which has around 1,800 workers at Jaguar Land Rover’s three main factories — 1,000 between Castle Bromwich and Solihull in the Midlands and 800 at Halewood, Merseyside. They perform a key role in managing warehouse operations and bringing parts to production lines. DHL workers at Jaguar's Merseyside factory are to vote on industrial action on Monday 15th July, despite bosses at the car maker pleading for management and leaders of the Unite trade union to return to the negotiating table.
A recent statement issued by DHL said the company was "extremely disappointed that Unite has rejected our very generous offer and voted in favour of industrial action", also adding that contigency plans were in place to minimise customer disruption.
A Unite spokesman said the dispute was "at the very beginning of the process" and the union hoped to resolve differences through negotiation. Meanwhile, a spokesman from the car manufacturer said: "Jaguar Land Rover is disappointed that DHL Unite members have voted in favour of industrial action. We encourage a return to the negotiating table to reach a satisfactory outcome for all parties as soon as possible."
DHL staff often work side by side with colleagues on Jaguar Land Rover contracts, delivering parts to the carmaker's production lines. They are demanding a pay rise to put them on similar terms and conditions. The logistics firm has offered staff a 4.5% pay increase for 2013, plus a guaranteed 3% for 2014. Unite is asking for 12.8% over two years for employees who sort parts and 20.6% for drivers. About 74% of the Midlands staff voted in favour of taking industrial action.
There are four more ballots planned by Unite, polling members at two other logistics companies supplying Jaguar, meaning the final decision on a strike is not expected for nearly a month.