Strike Action – Impact on the Supply Chain

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Strike Action – Impact on the Supply Chain

Over the previous 18 months the threat of, or actual, strike action has had a severe impact on the supply chain and with Amazon workers now planning the largest day of industrial action in Amazon’s thirty-year history on Black Friday (24 November), operators need to consider not just the impact on Amazon’s business itself, but on the chain of supply associated with mass sales and deliveries.

Logistics companies who form part of the Amazon supply chain should be contemplating what approach to take with regard to their employees and workers who will not have been balloted for strike action and will therefore be expecting to work.

If there is a temporary lack of work as a result of strike action on or around Black Friday, it would be an extreme move for any haulier to consider redundancy exercises. HGV operators will wish to reengage with staff once the strike action ends and work is again available, but may have difficulties in a) securing the same staff who have since found alternative roles, and b) their HR functions spending a disproportionate amount of time redrafting and gaining consent to new contracts.

A shorter-term option to deal with a temporary downturn in business would be to consider ‘lay-offs’ or ‘short-time working’. It is worth noting that lay-offs and short-time working are contractual rights, and therefore if operators do not have the relevant clauses in their employees’ and workers’ contracts, they may be prohibited from utilising these options. If contracts do not already include lay-off provisions, operators would be well-advised to review those contracts with a view to incorporating such terms.

The starting point for any business faced with a reduction in work as a result of strikes affecting their workforce is what the terms of the contract provide and whether it may be possible to adjust shift patterns or working hours.  Clear and robust contracts are therefore key to protecting operators faced with a downturn in their need for labour as a result of strike action in their supply chain.

Laying off staff actually provides employees and workers with no work (and therefore no remuneration) for a certain period of time, until work becomes available. As an alternative, short-time work can be used where there is some work, albeit it is limited, and therefore operators can provide employees and workers with less work (and therefore less pay) for a prescribed period. After an employee or worker has been laid off or kept on short-time working for either a 4-week continuous period, or for a total period of 13 weeks, they may be entitled to claim a statutory redundancy payment. The rules in this area are complex and therefore before operators consider enacting them, we would recommend seeking legal advice.  

Logistics providers who work with recruitment agencies will also need to consider that the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003 (Regulation 7) still make it unlawful for an employment business to supply temporary agency staff to perform the duties carried on by striking workers, or the duties carried out by another worker who is performing the duties carried out by a worker that is on strike (albeit the Government is currently consulting on removing Regulation 7). For operators affected by strike action, it is not therefore as simple as hiring in more staff to plug the gaps.

Finally, if an operator’s operating centre is affected by strike action (for example gaining access to site to park commercial vehicles), operators may need to consider notifying the Traffic Commissioner of such an issue and putting contingencies in place to ensure that vehicles are parked in a safe/appropriate location. It will also be necessary to consider whether drivers travelling to/from a different location to start/end their shift ought to be recording these movements as positioning journeys for the purposes of the drivers’ hours and tachograph rules.

Talk To us

If you need any advice surrounding the impact of strike action, please contact Scott Bell (Partner – Commercial Road Transport Law) or Simon Bloch (Partner - Employment) of JMW Solicitors LLP on 0345 872 6666.

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