DHL staff that support inbound logistics activity at Jaguar Land Rover’s plants in the UK have voted to strike next Wednesday (August 28th) – albeit for 30 minutes – in a protest at pay disparities between DHL and JLR staff. The action is being taken by warehouse, in-plant and driver staff.

Unite balloted DHL employees working at the three UK factories – Castle Bromwich, Halewood and Solihull – and at a number of logistics centres serving the carmakers, who voted in favour of industrial action last month. Agency staff subcontracted by DHL have also voted to strike. According to the legal requirements of the action it had to be carried out by next Wednesday. It comes against a background of ongoing talks between the trade union Unite and DHL, which continue this week. The move is not expected to significantly impact production.

DHL has offered staff a pay increase of 6.2% this year while Unite has requested a 12.8% increase for operatives and 20.6% increase for drivers over the next two years.

“We are disappointed that Unite has decided to take industrial action in response to our generous offer,” said a spokesperson for DHL Supply Chain. “Our warehouse operatives and drivers already enjoy very attractive rates of pay and shift allowances. This year we have made a pay offer worth 6.2%. For 2014 we have offered a minimum 3% increase or RPI. This would make our staff among the highest paid in the logistics sector.”

The company said it had taken on 2,500 additional people across the West Midlands and Merseyside since 2011 in support of the carmaker’s expansion. Since then it said it has also increased average wages by over 15%.

DHL added that there was no overall majority amongst its workforce in favour of industrial action and the situation was being driven entirely by Unite. “In fact only 32% of our overall workforce voted in favour of industrial action,” said the company in a statement.

The company would not comment on whether the action was risking future tenders with Jaguar Land Rover but said in its statement that, while it hoped to further increase its workforce to support the carmaker’s expansion plans, the Unite action was jeopardising those roles.

For its part Jaguar Land Rover only briefly appealed to both parties for a quick resolution.

"Jaguar Land Rover continues to urge Unite and DHL to resolve this dispute before it impacts our growing UK output and investment plans," said a spokesperson for the company.

While this latest conflict is specific to DHL and JLR, it raises wider questions over outsourcing and labour flexibility in the automotive industry, and the role that logistics services are playing in them. Christopher Ludwig looks more closely at the issue here.