Monday 26 September 2016

'Indefinite' Tesco strike tomorrow over pay cuts plan

Anne-Marie Walsh and Geraldine Gittens

Published 25/05/2016 | 02:30

Tesco to remove its Irish food section in over 200 UK stores (Stock picture)
Tesco to remove its Irish food section in over 200 UK stores (Stock picture)

More than 70 Tesco stores are facing indefinite closure from tomorrow due to strike action over a plan to move long-serving staff onto lower-paid contracts.

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Talks with the supermarket giant on the proposal collapsed at the Workplace Relations Commission early yesterday.

Tesco said its stores and online service would open for business as normal, but the trade union Mandate said it intended to close the stores.

The union, which represents up to 95pc of staff at the supermarkets, said nobody except managers would go to work at stores where long-serving staff are employed. It said the stores would close unless the retailer brought in "hired help", as Argos did in a previous dispute, when it flew in UK workers.

Mandate general-secretary John Douglas said the all-out strike would close 70 of the total of 149 stores.

"Tesco may try to open, but it will be hard to open without any staff," he said, adding: "It is unlikely that the public will go in anyway. If they bring in hired help, it will go down like a lead balloon and tends to alienate customers."

He said the work stoppages would go on until the dispute was resolved by the company either going to the Labour Court or halting the cuts.

Redundancy

Mr Douglas said talks at the Workplace Relations Commission went on for 14 hours but that it had not been possible to reach agreement. The company did not agree to go to the Labour Court, he said, so Tesco was expected to act on its plan to impose the cuts on 300 staff.

A total of 1,000 staff would have been affected by the cuts, but roughly 700 have left Tesco after accepting a voluntary redundancy offer.

Mr Douglas said management had failed to provide any evidence to justify the cuts, which would mean that long-serving staff would lose up to 35pc of their earnings. He claimed that many were already on family income support.

Guaranteed overtime would be slashed, said Mr Douglas, and Sunday and unsocial-hour premiums would fall from double pay to time-and-a-half on the new contracts. Mandate estimates the company is making profits of over €200m a year.

"This is not Superquinn on the verge of closing," said Mr Douglas. "It is one of the most profitable retailers in the world that has suddenly decided it does not want its longest-serving workers and wants to get rid of them."

He denied Tesco's claim that the plan aimed to get more flexibility from staff.

Tesco said it had not made a decision on a new date to implement the changes. It accused Mandate of acting outside its mandate for strike action.

It claimed that only 30pc of staff in affected stores had voted in support of the action, which the union denies.

Christine Heffernan , Director of Corporate Affairs told RTE’s Morning Ireland today that the company thinks its being fair in how it is making business changes.

“The proposals we have put forward now would mean for the vast majority of those colleagues, they would move to a different contract with a higher rate of pay; they would continue to have a guaranteed share bonus; we would backdate a 2pc pay rise to April last year.”

“If there is a loss of earnings we would compensate them one and a half times the annual loss, and we’ll make a goodwill payment, so we feel strongly that the next stage of the process is that the unions actually put that proposal to our colleagues.”

She said Tesco will operate "business as usual" tomorrow, and striking employees won't get paid.

“I think it’s standard if people don’t come into work they don’t get paid to work.”

Irish Independent

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