Tesco strikes set to 'escalate' with another eight stores to join picket line on Friday
Tesco workers have proceeded with indefinite strike action at eight stores across Ireland with an "escalation" of the dispute on the cards.
Another eight stores are set to join them on Friday as long-term staff feel their contracts are being threatened.
Workers who have gone on strike on Valentine's Day, and from the other stores that follow, will continue to picket until a resolution is found.
The dispute centres on the contracts of about 250 staff that have been working in Tesco since before 1996.
They feel under "constant threat" and an "intolerable level of stress" after fears their contracts might be changed.
Gerard Mahady (52) from Finglas was protesting outside Tesco in Clearwater in Dublin.
He says he doesn't know how he'd "make ends meet" with the new recommendations.
He has worked in Tesco for 30 years with his wife who has been there for 26 years.
"We were told that our contracts are going to be ripped up, and we're being offered new ones. There'll be a loss of income for me personally of 15pc."
- Read more: 'Workers have no choice' - Union responds to claims that strike action at eight Tesco stores 'unjustified'
"I wouldn't be able to afford my mortgage and my bills. We're getting dragged back to the dark ages. They employ 14,500 people how is 200 odd people affecting them? Just leave us alone, we've done nothing wrong and we shouldn't be treated like this," he said.
Brian Barrett has worked in Tesco for 28 years, he has a fixed contract and works Monday to Friday.
He is getting married to his partner - who also works in Tesco - next month.
He said: "We’re getting married on March 25, the two of us will be really hit if this escalates to weeks or months, but we're willing to bite the bullet now at this stage."
He says they are set to lose €200 each week if the recommendations are introduced.
Mandate Trade Union have called on Tesco to agree to their request to the Labour Court which seeks clarification on certain aspects of the Workplace Relations Committee (WRC) proposals.
"It looks like an escalation of the dispute is where we are heading, there doesn't seem to be any desire by Tesco to sit down and engage. They don't want to seek clarification from the Labour Court," said Mandate representative Brendan O'Hanlon.
"There needs to be very clear clarifications that will help this dispute. The WRC tabled a set of proposals following a series of conciliation conferences which required various changing to workers terms and conditions of employment, their overtime rates, their earnings, their working hours."
"To assist us to assess the full extent of those changes we need the Labour Court to clarify what it meant by certain aspects of the recommendation around the WRC proposals," he added.
Tesco released a statement describing the strike as "unnecessary" and "unjustified".
The statement said: "Tesco and our colleagues remain shocked that Mandate is still going ahead with this strike and that the union has advised customers to shop in non-unionised competitor stores."
"Despite the actions of Mandate, the company has not made any changes to the pre-1996 terms and conditions of the 250 workers at the centre of the dispute."
They added that they have abided by the Labour Court recommendations.
The affected shops will remain open despite strike action.
There are three Tesco stores affected in Dublin which are based in Finglas, on Baggot Street, and in Ballyfermot.
The others are based in Tralee, in Kerry, Deanscurragh in Longford, Navan in Meath, Tullamore in Offaly and Bray in Wicklow.
The other eight that are set to go on strike on Friday are in Beaumont, Ballybrack, Blanchardstown, Drumcondra, Phibsborough and Arran Quay - all in Dublin - and Tesco stores in Tirkeenan in Monaghan and Greystones in Wicklow will join them.