Goldstar Transport is being threatened with strike action after being accused of using Covid-19 as a “smokescreen” to close its Woolpit depot in Suffolk and change more than 100 drivers’ terms and conditions.
However, MD Matthew Ashworth condemned the action this week, insisting it was not supported by the majority of workers at the site.
Union Unite is warning that the company, which is a subsidiary of Turners (Soham) could face strike action over the Christmas period, after it organised a strike ballot this week for almost 60 members that work for Goldstar Transport at the depot. The ballot closes on Tuesday 14 July.
Unite claims that the company’s decision to close its Woolpit depot and make 107 drivers redundant came days after drivers requested trade union recognition at the depot.
Unite said that 12 drivers will be made redundant with ten remaining on site. The other 85 drivers are being offered transfers to its Felixstowe headquarters 33 miles away.
The union also raised health and safety concerns at the site, claiming crane loads were being moved over vehicles when drivers were still in the cab.
Unite regional officer Mark Jaina said: “Goldstar Transport appears to be using Covid-19 as a smokescreen to halt operations from the Woolpit depot, and impose detrimental terms and conditions on our members.
“It can’t be a coincidence that as soon as Unite asked for trade union recognition, the bosses decided to shut down haulage operations at Woolpit.
“The company’s offer that drivers transfer to Felixstowe, on a less favourable contract, is neither fair nor realistic.
“We believe that the company can well afford to keep the Woolpit operation in place, as according to its own website, it says that ‘In 2020, we have an annual turnover in excess of £110m’.
“Management must negotiate or they could be facing strike action later this summer and right up until Christmas.”
Ashworth refuted the union’s allegations and told motortransport.co.uk that the closure of the Woolpit depot was part of a long-term plan to extend the site into a container storage facility, in response to rising demand for the service.
“As a result we are looking to move the transport operation to Felixstowe and 107 drivers are on notice of redundancy. However there are 95 vacancies at Felixstowe so potentially there will be 12 redundancies.”
He also defended the changes made to the new contract of employment which he said were mandatory under current employment law, adding: “The basic wage is the same but drivers will work for five hours less for it, so I do not see what the problem is.”
He confirmed that there had been a safety breach at the site adding: “It was one incident and the forklift driver responsible was disciplined. It was an unfortunate incident in an otherwise impeccable safety record.”
He also accused the union of “stirring up a hornets’ nest” at the depot, involving a “small minority” of workers, adding that he was confident the ballot would fail.