TESCO has said there are “contingency plans in place to help mitigate any impact”, as a strike action of the UK’s leading unions could lead to shortages in the run-up to Christmas.

Unite the Union warehouse workers and HGV drivers based at Tesco’s depots in Antrim, Belfast, Didcot, and Doncaster decided to go on strike as a result of the supermarket giant offering the workers “just a four per cent pay increase, which is well below the current retail price index (RPI) inflation rate of six per cent”.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Our members have gone above and beyond the call of duty to keep Tesco’s shelves filled throughout the pandemic. At the very least the UK’s largest and wealthiest retailer should be making our members a decent pay offer.

“Unite always prioritises the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and it will be giving its full and total support to our members at Tesco until this dispute is resolved.”

The Didcot and Doncaster sites will see an initial 48 hours stoppage beginning at 6 am on Thursday, December 16. This will be followed by a further five-day pre-Christmas stoppage beginning on Monday, December 20.

Yesterday (Monday, December 6) Usdaw gave notice of a stoppage starting on Monday 20 December and concluding on Christmas Eve.

Usdaw explained on its website that the two separate ballots, Usdaw members have voted 73 per cent and 84 per cent in favour of industrial action as a result of disputes over pay. The two ballots separately cover nine Tesco Distribution sites.

The two disputes involve over 5,000 Usdaw members at nine Tesco distribution centres in Daventry Clothing, Goole, Hinckley, Lichfield, Livingston, Magor (both trunk and main sites), Peterborough, and Southampton. Members have rejected a 4 per cent annual pay increase and Usdaw urges the company to improve the offer to avoid pre-Christmas disruption in stores.

Joanne McGuinness, Usdaw national officer, says: “Our members have sent a clear message, with this high turnout and strong support for industrial action. We hope that the company is listening and that they will return to the negotiating table with a better deal that is acceptable to our members.

“Retail distribution workers are key workers who delivered essential services throughout the pandemic, which in turn delivered a 16.5% increase in profit to Tesco for the first half of the year. These workers deserve a decent pay rise as their reward for what they have done and continue to do day in day out; couple that with the rising cost of living and inflation currently running at 6%, the company needs to do better.

“Industrial action and possible stock shortages in stores in the week before Christmas can be avoided. It needs the company to engage positively in talks with Usdaw and we stand ready to reopen negotiations.”

A Tesco spokesperson said: “Our distribution colleagues have worked tirelessly through the pandemic in order to keep products moving for customers.

“The pay offer we have made is a fair recognition of this and is one of the highest awards made within our distribution business in the last 25 years, building on our highly competitive pay and rewards package.

“We welcome the decision by our colleagues at the sites who have voted against industrial action. We are disappointed that some have voted to proceed, and we have contingency plans in place to help mitigate any impacts. We have worked hard to deliver Christmas for our customers and are confident we will be able to fulfill our plans.”