SOUTHAMPTON and Hampshire shoppers could face empty shelves in the run-up to Christmas in light of upcoming strikes.

Thousands of Tesco workers have voted to strike during the week before Christmas.

Union members at nine distribution centres - including Southampton - have opted for industrial action following a row over pay.

In two separate ballots, Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) members have voted 73 per cent and 84 per cent in favour of striking.

Ultimately, more than 5,000 workers have rejected a 4 per cent annual pay increase.

USDAW is now urging Tesco to improve the offer to avoid pre-Christmas disruption in stores.

The UK's fifth biggest trade union with over 380,000 members, has announced strikes starting on Monday, December 20 and ending on Christmas Eve

Commenting, USDAW National Officer, Joanne McGuinness said: “Our members have sent a clear message, with this high turnout and strong support for industrial action. We hope that the company is listening and that they will return to the negotiating table with a better deal that is acceptable to our members.

“Retail distribution workers are key workers who delivered essential services throughout the pandemic, which in turn delivered a 16.5% increase in profit to Tesco for the first half of the year. These workers deserve a decent pay rise as their reward for what they have done and continue to do day in day out; couple that with the rising cost of living and inflation currently running at 6%, the company needs to do better.

“Industrial action and possible stock shortages in stores in the week before Christmas can be avoided. It needs the company to engage positively in talks with Usdaw and we stand ready to reopen negotiations.”

The eight other Tesco distribution centres have also voted to strike. They include Daventry Clothing, Goole, Hinckley, Lichfield, Livingston, Magor and Peterborough.