Unite threatens Stobart Group with strike action

Unite has threatened Stobart Group with a strike over its “vicious and greedy action”, after the operator revealed it would remove the transport function from its Doncaster DC, putting 183 drivers’ jobs at risk.

Eddie Stobart revealed its plans to staff at the DC yesterday (5 September), confirming Unite’s worst fears after the transfer of the business and staff from Tesco on the 5 August.

In a letter sent to staff and seen by Commercialmotor.com, the company states its intention to “organise transport collections and/or deliveries to/from Doncaster utilising [its] transport network.

“It is proposed that no units, other than those used as shunt vehicles, will be based at Doncaster”.

In response, Matt Draper, Unite national officer for retail distribution, said: “The scale of the job losses will be grim news for Doncaster.

“Eddie Stobart has acted in a vicious and greedy fashion. We had campaigned for these jobs to be safeguarded once the TUPE arrangements came into force at the beginning of August, but now we can see the true hard face of Eddie Stobart.

“Tesco must bear its share of the blame for this, as it would have been aware that this might happen.”

However, David Pickering, Eddie Stobart MD, said: “This reorganisation of operations is necessary to achieve a cost-effective, efficient and sustainable solution, while still delivering an excellent standard of service. As a consequence, all 183 LGV driver positions have been identified as being at risk of redundancy.

“Eddie Stobart has now entered into a 90-day consultation period with Unite and elected representatives to look at ways of avoiding redundancy and will do everything it can to help affected employees find alternative employment opportunities within Stobart Group."

The process of balloting Unite members at the DC began last month ahead of the redundancy announcement. The result of the ballot is expected on the 12 September.

Steve Hall celebrates 40 years at Ciceley Commercials

Ciceley Commercials service manager Steve Hall has worked for the Blackburn dealership for 40 years.

He joined the company in 1972, which was then a Seddon Atkinson dealer, as a 15-year-old from school as an apprentice technician, before the company took on the Mercedes-Benz franchise the following year.

Today he manages a team of 24 factory-trained Mercedes-Benz technicians and apprentices, supported by 11 back-room staff. He has spent most of his career at his employer’s former dealership, on Ciceley Lane, Blackburn, which is now the head office of the Ciceley Group holding company.

For the past eight years though, he and his colleagues have been operating from a purpose-built flagship site just off junction 4 of the M65. “The move was a real landmark in the company’s development,” recalled Steve. “Not only is the workshop much bigger and better-equipped, but there’s also a lot more room here to park vehicles and a much more spacious and welcoming reception area.”

The job itself has also changed out of all recognition. “When I started out our tools of the trade were spanners and torque wrenches. These days you’re more likely to see one of our technicians using a laptop to carry out a diagnostic test on a vehicle.”

He is also credited with playing a pivotal role in helping the dealership secure both the Mercedes-Benz and Motor Transport Commercial Vehicle Dealer of the Year titles in 2010. “Ciceley Commercials is a great place a great place to work and I’m lucky to be able to call on the support of a fantastic team of technicians, many of whom weren’t even born when I started here!” he added.

Away from work he follows Blackburn Rovers, has helped raised has five children and has seven grandchildren.

Dealer principal Mike Lewis said Steve’s contribution to the ongoing success of Ciceley Commercials has been massive. “His store of knowledge and experience is vast and we’re very lucky to have held onto him for so long – and even luckier that he has no plans to retire just yet!

“His long and distinguished career is also testament to Ciceley’s philosophy of nurturing its staff and keeping hold of the brightest and best people in order to keep providing the very highest levels of service to all our customers.”