Wholesaler Castell Howell ups driver wages by quarter

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Carmarthenshire wholesaler Castell Howell has raised its drivers’ pay by 24 per cent to tackle staff shortages.

Haulier wages have increased three times faster than those of its other depot workers.

Finance director Nigel Williams told The Grocer  that driver demand has intensified after an Amazon warehouse opened in nearby Swansea.

Retailers including Poundland, Tesco and Waitrose are offering four-figure bonuses in a bid to recruit hauliers.

READ MORE: Sainsbury’s halts wholesale to focus on food

Castell Howell’s lorries now carry heavier loads and operate across fewer routes.

Accounts filed this month show sales have fallen from £144 million to £102.7 million, while profit has plummeted by 24.5 per cent to £3.8 million.

Revenue was reportedly hit by the closure of hospitality businesses during lockdown.

The wholesaler said that sales were down 40 per cent at one stage, but were now returning to pre-Covid levels.

Williams admitted that without government support, which Castell Howell used to furlough half its staff, the wholesaler would have made “significant losses” rather than a “reasonable profit”.

It made 42 redundancies over 2020, and has roughly 100 fewer employees than it did before the pandemic.

It comes as lorry drivers threatened strikes over pay disparities at Booker, the Tesco-owned wholesaler.

The Big 4 grocer brought in a £5-an-hour wage increase for hauliers at its Hemel Hempstead depot, but refused to do the same for workers at its Thamesmead site.

“Our Thamesmead members are outraged at the disrespect the management and the company as a whole have shown them,” Unite regional officer Paul Travers said,

“We are gaining new members from other employees disgusted at the company’s contemptuous attitude.”

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