Working Conditions: the Case of the Müller Drivers

Working Conditions: the case of the Müller drivers

Eamon Dyas

Members of the Unite Trade Union are currently picketing supermarkets in London to highlight an industrial dispute that has received little coverage in the media although it touches on a subject that is becoming a growing concern for workers generally – the erosion of working conditions. Some of the members of Unite who are employed at the Mullers’ Foods factory in Stonehouse in Gloucestershire as delivery drivers were among those picketing the Waitrose supermarket in Greenwich, London, on Thursday, 5 January. I spoke to one of the pickets to inquire about the issues involved and what it was they hoped to achieve. He emphasized that they were not in dispute with Waitrose and did not wish to prevent customers using the store. What they wanted was to make customers of the supermarket aware of the basis of the current dispute.

The basis of that dispute as explained to me is that the management at Muller has arbitrarily broken a long-standing agreement whereby the drivers were not compelled to work every weekend in order that they could spend some weekend time with their families. Muller has torn up that agreement and is now demanding that the drivers work to shift rotas that involve them working every weekend despite the fact that this dramatically encroaches on the time they can spend with their families. 

Waitrose is an important retail outlet for Muller dairy products and, in common with other larger food retailers, has a business association with Mullers through an invoice discounting arrangement. But that wasn’t the only reason why the store was chosen to be picketed. More importantly was the fact that Waitrose was an employee-owned company that espouses family friendly policies for its own employees (partners) and as this stands in marked contrast with what is currently happening at Muller they hoped that the management of the Waitrose/John Lewis Partnership could be convinced by their customers to put pressure on Muller to abandon its current policy and revert to the previous agreement that had been negotiated in good faith and which allowed the drivers to have some weekend time with their families.

For more information on this campaign and to sign the petition go to:

This is a statement from the Unite Muller drivers:

Muller changing conditions of service

The people responsible for running your Stonehouse Factory in Gloucestershire, UK, have broken a collective agreement on working time arrangements made with staff. This act of bad faith is having serious and negative consequences for the lives of your employees and their families.

In the UK we expect workers to be treated fairly and for agreements made in good faith to be adhered to.

Muller is a very profitable company. There is no need for your company to: Break collective agreements, undermine workers’ wellbeing and disrupt workers’ family lives, all for the sake of a little extra on the bottom line.

We, the undersigned, call on you to intervene personally and instruct a course correction from your UK management team to ensure:

• That workers are not driven away from their families and, 
• That previously agreed working patterns are returned to immediately

Why is this important?

What is the dispute about with Muller? 
Muller has BROKEN AN AGREEMENT it made with workers at the Stonehouse factory in Gloucestershire and is now forcing them to work weekends every week and spend time away from their families. 

Muller continues to make bumper profits whilst the driver workforce at Muller have seen their family and personal lives ripped apart by the company who have imposed these new rotas. 

Can Muller change the rota system back? 
Yes, Muller is an extremely wealthy company that can fully afford to keep the roster system as it was. Previously workers always worked certain weekends on a rotating basis meaning they could also have some weekends off, however the new imposed rotas see the company forcing workers to drive every weekend instead of being able to see their families. 

Who is gaining from the bumper-profits whilst workers are driven away from their families at weekends? 
The Muller family, primarily Theo Muller, owns the vast majority of shares in the Muller Group. According to Forbes, Theo Muller has a net worth of $4.8 billion and is currently the 601st richest person in the world. His net worth has grown dramatically over the last decade and has almost doubled from $2.7 billion in 2013! 

What does Unite want from Muller? 
• A stop to workers being driven away from their families 
• A return to the previously agreed shift pattern

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s