CO-OP stores across the region could face empty shelves as drivers strike over pay.

Members of the union Unite who are employed as drivers and transport clerks by logistics giant GXO on the outsourced Co-op delivery contract, have announced extensive strike action beginning later this month in a dispute over pay.

Over 330 workers based at the company’s depot in Elton Head Road, St Helens are involved in the dispute. The workers recorded a 97 per cent vote in favour of strike action.

The drivers deliver to 466 Co-op stores spreading from the Lake District in the north, Leeds in the east, as far south as Hereford and Aberystwyth in the west.

Unite says that the strike action will have an immediate effect on supplies.

In total, 40 days of strike action have been announced between the end of May and the end of August.

This will comprise 20 separate, 48 hour strikes, with the first strike beginning on May 31, which coincides with the jubilee celebrations.

The drivers are currently paid a standard rate of £14.77 an hour but the union says drivers employed on comparable contracts are often paid over £17 an hour.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “GXO’s refusal to pay our members the rate for the job means Co-op stores will now be short of goods. This is a wealthy company that has no excuse not to pay proper wages.

“GXO needs to get real and make an offer that meets our members’ expectations. Unite will be giving these workers its full support until this dispute is resolved.”

Unite regional officer Kenny Rowe said: “Strike action will undoubtedly cause disruption to Co-op stores across much of the country but this dispute is entirely of GXO’s own making.

“Even at this late stage strike action and the ensuing disruption can still be avoided, but GXO has to make an improved offer.”

A statement by GXO said: “We are committed to being an employer of choice for our employees and our customers. Discussions are ongoing in order to reach agreement with all parties involved.”