DHL delivery workers in Liverpool began a 48-hour walkout on Wednesday as they launched a series of strikes over pay and victimisation.
The Unite union members plan further on 2, 3, 4, 5, 8 and 9 February. They suspended a programme of strikes before Christmas, but talks between DHL bosses and the union collapsed in the New Year.
Unite regional officer Kenny Rowe told Socialist Worker from the picket line, “We’re expecting a huge turnout for the next two days. Solidarity is up despite the freezing rain.”
The 120-strong workforce carries out the delivery contract for Burton biscuits. This includes the Wagon Wheel and Jammie Dodger brands, and AB World Foods. Distribution has been hit hard.
Workers are holding socially-distanced picketing in shifts. “There are 30 of us on the first shift,” said Rowe. “There are three shifts a day and we’re here for a 24-hour constant presence.
“We need the company to get the message, so of course we’ve still turned up for a picket.”
Rowe said that during the previous round of strikes the police were “just bully boys trying to stop us being able to lawfully picket”. “This wasn’t received well,” he said. “DHL has been telling all sorts of lies to the police.”
On Wednesday, Rowe said, “Security turned up with the police asking to see our risk assessment.
“Right now there are two vans, two cars and about five or six officers.”
Bosses have promised to make a “significantly improved offer over pay”—but have failed to do so.
“We suspended five days of action to allow for talks,” Rowe explained. “But there was no improved offer. All they did was talk about a three-year deal rather than a two-year one.
“With the bullying of our members by managers, we’re not intending to do a three-year deal if they’re not willing to improve industrial relations.
“We had no choice but to say no.”
Rowe explained how warehouse operators are bullied by managers “on an almost constant basis”.
“We thought this was fixed some time ago,” he said. “But management think they have a licence to bully.”
DHL bosses also refused to make an acceptable pay offer. “They put us in a position where workers would receive just 2.5p an hour more than the national minimum wage when it rises in April,” Rowe said.
“From that point it was a no deal—no one could endorse that.”
“We have a right to go back and demand a 5.7 percent rise and the removal of these managers.”
Rowe says that the strikers won’t be going anywhere until they’re taken seriously. “DHL needs to remember that it’s not shareholders that make them money. It’s the people they employ who make their profits," he said.
“The talks last time were duplicitous, and I was disgusted with the approach of the company.
“We won’t be falling for it again.”
Messages of support to the Unite regional officer on 07720 703567.
Ballot over suspension at DHL Dartford
More than 350 DHL staff at Sainsbury’s Dartford regional distribution centre are being balloted for industrial action after a Unite union representative’s "completely unjustified" suspension for representing a member of staff.
Unite says the ballot comes after a number of incidents of attempted "union busting" at DHL sites across the country. The union believes DHL’s management are "testing the waters during the uncertainty of the pandemic to see if union activity, and the protections it affords staff, can be weakened".
The Dartford Sainsbury’s regional distribution ballot was called after a Unite steward, who was providing support to a member of staff during an investigation hearing, was suspended for challenging a DHL manager’s version of events.
The reason given for the suspension by the manager was that the Unite steward was being aggressive. This is challenged by a neutral member of staff who was present at the meeting as a third party.