Pubs could run dry in pay row

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The Independent Online
Beer supplies to one of Britain's biggest pub chains face severe disruption after delivery workers voted to take industrial action over pay cuts of up to 25 per cent.

The Bass Group, the company at the centre of the dispute, owns some 4,000 pubs nationwide and delivers Grolsch, Carling Black Label, draught Bass, Caffreys, Tennents and Lamot Pils to between 25,000 and 30,000 outlets.

Leaders of the 1,400 distribution workers voted by a 72 per cent majority to strike and by 85 per cent in favour of industrial action short of stoppages. An overtime ban and work to rule will begin next Friday, followed by 48-hour walkouts on 23 and 24 January and 6 and 7 February.

Tradeteam, the company which distributes Bass products, will seek an injunction early next week alleging the disagreement does not constitute a lawful trade dispute. The distribution company, 49 per cent owned by Bass and 51 per cent by the National Freight Corporation is confident that the court will ban the action.

Although terms and conditions have always been negotiated locally at more than 50 depots, the Transport and General Workers' Union is calling for action in support of central bargaining to prevent "attacks" on their terms and conditions.

Employees at one depot in the North-east, the only one where draymen belong to the GMB general union, will be dismissed on Monday if they refuse to sign contracts reducing their wages.

Brian Revell, a T&G national official, said Bass was profitable and had no need to adopt such a policy. He said the company had already cut wages by pounds 100 a week at one depot - a drop of around 25 per cent - and was attempting to impose a similar pay level elsewhere.

A Tradeteam spokesman said it was competing with other distribution companies and that even after the wage cut, its employees would be among the top 25 per cent earners in the sector.