Strike action threatened at haulage firm over depot dispute

Goldstar Transport bosses deny they are closing a depot in Woolpit. Picture: PHIL JONES

Goldstar Transport bosses deny they are closing a depot in Woolpit. Picture: PHIL JONES - Credit: Archant

Union members are deciding whether to hold strike action at a major Suffolk haulage firm, as 12 jobs go due to restructuring.

Unite has accused Goldstar Transport of using coronavirus as “a smokescreen” to shut down its Woolpit depot, near Bury St Edmunds, after workers there applied for trade union recognition.

The union says that workers were told via email that the haulage operations from the Elmswell Road depot would be stopping.

However, Goldstar Transport has denied that the depot is being closed down, and said that the way the site is used in future will change.

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Matthew Ashworth, managing director at Goldstar Transport, said: “Due to the nature of business these days, with more work coming in big lumps, there’s a much greater requirement for container storage and lifting.

“So we’re looking to expand that area of the business at Woolpit and relocate the majority of the transport operation back to Felixstowe.”

Mark Jaina, Unite regional officer, said: “Unfortunately Goldstar Transport appears to be using Covid-19 as a smokescreen to halt operations from the Woolpit depot, and impose detrimental terms and conditions on our members.

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“The company’s offer that the majority of the drivers transfer to Felixstowe, a round trip of nearly 70 miles, on a less favourable contract is neither fair nor realistic.”

Mr Ashworth confirmed that 12 redundancies would have to be made among 107 staff currently working at the site, as the business seeks more flexibility from its driving force.

The rest of the staff will be transferred to different positions within the business. He said that he sympathises with those staff whose jobs will move from Woolpit to Felixstowe.

Mr Ashworth did confirm Unite’s allegation that there had been serious health and safety breaches at the site, including an incident where a load was suspended above a vehicle while the driver was still in the cab.

He said: “There is no doubt there is a photograph of that happening on one occasion. It is totally against our procedures, totally against the way we operate. The chap who was in the fork truck has been disciplined.

“It’s certainly not the norm and we’ve had a number of health and safety executives come and see us and they’ve had no issues with our procedures at all.”

Mr Jaina said: “We believe that the company can well afford to keep the Woolpit operation in place, as according to its own website, it says that: ‘In 2020, we have an annual turnover in excess of £110million.’

“We urge the company to rescind its plan to close down operations at Woolpit and sit down with Unite to negotiate in a constructive manner the other outstanding issues that are adversely affecting our members – otherwise, the management could be facing strike action later this summer and right up until Christmas.”

A ballot of the nearly 60 Unite members at the Woolpit depot will now be held between June 30 and July 14 to decide whether strike action should go ahead.