Former Eddie Stobart lorry drivers to protest over ‘unfair dismissals’

Tesco distribution centre, Middle Bank, Doncaster
Tesco distribution centre, Middle Bank, Doncaster

Ex-Eddie Stobart Ltd lorry drivers, who were involved in a long-running and bitter dispute with the company over redudancies, are set to stage a demonstration today.

The drivers, who used to work on the Tesco distribution contract at Middle Bank until being made redundant in January last year, say they are staging the demonstration in a bid to highlight the ‘unfair dismissals’.

Supporters and members of Unite the union are also expected to turn out for the protest, which will be held at the Tesco distribution centre at Middle Bank, Doncaster DN4 5JJ from 11am today.

Unite national officer Adrian Jones said: “Basically, our members are saying that there was no need for Eddie Stobart Ltd (ESL) to have made them redundant at the beginning of 2013 – as the company is employing agency drivers to do exactly the same jobs as they did, but on worse terms and conditions.”

Unite is currently pursuing an unfair dismissal claim on behalf of the 184 drivers, which is expected to take place this summer.

The union has also claimed the ‘protected award’ for the drivers was insufficient.

The origins of the dispute go back to August 2012 when the transport workforce was transferred from Tesco to ESL and then in September, ESL issued notice of termination of employment, with no promise that the drivers would be re-employed once the 90-days were up.

This sparked a four month dispute. Eventually the drivers voted to accept a package from ESL which meant that they finished work in January 2013.

Adrian Jones said: “There was never a good reason for ESL to terminate our members’ employment. It has struggled over the last 15 months to fulfil its contract obligations to Tesco.

“ESL has tried to cover the work from other drivers in the ESL network, but now it has had to resort to using agency drivers directly for the first time at the Doncaster distribution centre to cover the work.

“It is very clear to Unite that there was never a case to make the drivers redundant originally – it was purely a cost-cutting exercise by ESL and now it has been found out.

“We hope that what we believe is the company’s duplicitous behaviour will be fully exposed at the employment tribunal hearing this summer.”

The majority of the former Tesco drivers are still working in the industry either as self-employed drivers or for agencies – however, some remain unemployed.