TESCO staff in south Essex are threatening a mass strike which could lead to empty shelves after they were offered an “offensive” pay increase.

More than 500 staff at the Purfleet distribution centre are set to join lorry drivers and warehouse staff across the country in a strike over the pay row.

Lorry drivers and warehouse staff across the country, including more than 500 staff in Purfleet, are set to strike over the pay row.

Purfleet workers would join staff in Belfast, Didcot and Doncaster regional distribution centres with up to 3,500 staff going on strike.

Staff have been offered a four per cent pay increase, but this was rejected.

However, Tesco bosses say they have put forward a “fair and competitive pay offer.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Tesco made more than £3billion during the pandemic yet pretends it cannot afford to pay the workers responsible for such staggering profits a decent pay rise.

“Offering four per cent is offensive when RPI inflation is running at nearly five per cent.

If our members vote to strike, Tesco can expect Unite to go all the way to support their fight for a fair pay rise.”

Empty shelves would be bad news for residents who have already battled petrol and food shortages following the Covid pandemic.

Unite senior shop steward Steve Pease said: “Tesco’s management could not have made their disdain for the workers, who ensured the company’s coffers overflowed during the pandemic, any clearer.

“As well as making massive amounts in 2020, Tesco’s profits jumped by 16.6 per cent during the first half of 2021, while profit forecasts for the full year have also grown. If there is strike action, shoppers should know that Tesco’s greed and arrogance are to blame.”

A Tesco spokesperson said: “We are disappointed that Unite has decided to ballot for potential industrial action at a small number of our distribution sites.

“We have put forward a fair and competitive pay offer to our colleagues, which is the highest one-year award made within our distribution business in the last 25 years.”