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New deal with outside firm angers Dale Farm milk truck drivers

Nick Whelan

Truck drivers collecting milk for Northern Ireland's largest milk processor, Dale Farm, have said morale is at an all-time low following a restructure of the haulage system.

Dale Farm has contracted Bibby Distribution Ltd, which has its headquarters in Liverpool and operates from over 90 locations in the UK, to take over milk collections from its Northern Ireland suppliers

It previously contract hired its fleet of Volvo and Daf trucks and employed its own drivers to collect the milk.

However, following what the processor calls an "extensive employee consultation", Dale Farm switched to the new system on April 29. Drivers claim they were only informed of the changes in January after the decision to switch had already been made months previously.

A number of disgruntled drivers have said they are actively searching for new employment.

One driver, who did not wish to be named, said: "In the previous arrangement drivers were employed by Dale Farm. We were only told about the new system in mid-January after what we believe were over 15 months of talks between the two.

"Our new contracts stipulate our conditions should stay the same for a period of one year. However, even before the takeover date they tried to change us from weekly pay to monthly pay.

"Strike action was only averted after senior management within Bibby overruled the new payment plan. But how long that will last we don't know. We are still in the old lorries but we think that will also change soon.

"Drivers here are not happy and morale is really low as we are uncertain what the future may bring."

Dale Farm, which is led by CEO Nick Whelan, said: "Following a review and extensive employee consultation, Dale Farm took the decision to partner with Bibby Distribution Ltd to manage its milk collection services from its members' farms across Northern Ireland. The transfer of services was completed on April 29.

"Bibby Distribution Ltd has a wealth of experience in milk collection in Great Britain, providing an efficient, sustainable service using innovation and technology, whilst maintaining an unwavering commitment to food security and service.

"Dale Farm is focused on ensuring that our farmer members experience minimal disruption during the changeover."

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