A retail distribution driver spoke to us about recent moves by workers to break from the retail union USDAW and join Unite. AWL has criticised USDAW's role as a collaborationist and sell-out union in the retail sector. However, we do not have a formal policy of advocating or supporting breakaways from majority/recognised unions, and relate to particular cases on an individual basis. We publish this report for information.
Members of USDAW at the Sainsbury's distribution centre in Sherburn-in-Elmet, Leeds (operated by Wincanton), have rebelled by defecting to another union - Unite.
In less than four weeks, over 150 union members in the transport department (HGV Drivers etc.) have freely and without any influence from Unite, chosen to cancel their membership with USDAW and transfer to Unite.
Following a number of recent incidents whereby USDAW ignored member concerns which included an 80-signature vote of no confidence in USDAW. Concerns also included ballot fixing allegations, union reps being removed for spurious reasons, and a union rep being
appointed without a ballot.
The situation has also been exacerbated by USDAW members and former members receiving threatening letters from USDAW.
This has left USDAW with a minority membership and Unite with a majority membership in the Transport Department.
USDAW is the recognised union at the huge Sainsbury’s distribution centre in Sherburn-in Elmet, Leeds. They were given recognition voluntarily almost five years ago when the site opened. In return for recognition, USDAW agreed to opt-out of the road transport 10-hour night work limit for drivers, which has resulted in HGV Drivers working excessively long hours on nights. USDAW also signed away the right to strike for all workers at Sherburn.
Michael Bohan emailed us to say he was having difficulty posting his comments on the site, and asked that we post this up on his behalf, in the interests of continuing the discussion/debate:
"I am a USDAW rep at Northampton, I have my own issues with USDAW. I registered with your site and am struggling to see my comments.
"My reply was in response to the unite members claims at the Sainsbury site run by Wincantons at Northampton. I am a night driver who has been a rep for 18 months I have never in the time I have been a rep done anything other the do the best for my members, if I am accused of doing anything other I would stand down today.
"I am also a card carrying Labour supporter."