Britain could face ‘beer drought’ this summer, drinks industry warns

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Britain’s food and drinks shortages seem to be never-ending. In recent weeks, supermarkets have reported a lack of fruit and veg, water bottles, ice cream, and more as they struggle to keep up with surging customer demand.

Now, another product could be added to the long list of shortages.

Less beer could be delivered to top UK brands, companies, and supermarkets this summer as workers at one of the country’s biggest alcohol logistics firms are considering industrial action.

Employees at XPO are threatening to strike over their salaries.

Drivers and warehouse staff across the firm’s sites are not happy with their 1.4 percent pay rise, offered to them for 2021.

Workers have argued this is because it is below the current UK inflation rate of 3.9 percent.

If the employees decide to go on strike, it could cause issues for companies and retailers who sell and stock beer.

Logistics firm XPO is responsible for 40 percent of the UK’s beer deliveries.

The company supply major brands, including Heineken, to pubs and other premises.

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Unite, the UK’s largest trade union, has blasted XPO’s offer of a 1.4 percent pay rise, saying the firm’s workers deserve more for “working flat out”.

Joe Clarke, Unite’s national officer for the drinks industry, said employees were “working flat out currently to meet the high demand for beer volumes in our pubs as society opens”.

Mr Clarke added: “A beer drought could result if our members vote for industrial action because they make 40 percent of the beer deliveries in the country.

“This disruption would be on top of the ‘pingdemic’ that is already hitting the sector.”

The Unite national officer continued: “We call upon the company to engage in meaningful negotiations regarding a decent pay increase for our members.”

The trade union has also accused XPO of putting workers at risk of Covid after stopping “Covid-secure cleaning processes” at a time when infections were continuing to rise.

However, a spokesperson for the logistics firm said: “Protecting our employees is our number one priority.

“We’re working closely with the local authorities and adhering to all local and Public Health England guidance to ensure the appropriate health and safety measures are in place.”

The spokesperson added: “We remain open for further conversations to seek agreement in a hospitality sector that is starting to come out of the lockdown’s impact.”

As Mr Clarke mentioned, beer shortages would add to the current issues pubs and retailers are facing, such as the “pingdemic”.

Due to an increasing number of Britons being told to self-isolate via the Track and Trace app, some pubs and supermarkets across the country have had to cut their opening hours.

Pub chain Greene King closed 33 pubs last week, while Iceland closed some stores and reduced the opening hours of others.

The supermarket’s chief executive, Richard Walker, said four percent of its 30,000-strong workforce was absent last week.

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