Tesco stores stay open as '60pc of staff pass pickets'
Tesco said it managed to remain open as up to 60pc of workers passed pickets when an indefinite strike began at eight stores yesterday.
But the Mandate union claimed only a handful of its members walked past their colleagues on their way to work during industrial action in a row over the company's bid to get long-serving staff to accept new contracts.
The union claimed the stores managed to remain open because they were largely run by managers drafted in from other locations.
There was no love lost between the British supermarket chain and its longest-serving staff on St Valentine's Day when a dispute over the introduction of new contracts for staff hired before 1996 erupted into industrial action.
Mandate warned that the strikes may escalate unless the company agrees it will not impose the new contracts on 250 workers who joined before that date.
Staff went on strike in stores in Dublin, Kerry, Longford, Meath, Offaly and Wicklow yesterday and another eight stores in Dublin, Monaghan and Wicklow will join the campaign of industrial action on Friday.
Staff at a further 23 stores are set to ballot on industrial action next week.
A Tesco spokesperson claimed trade was good yesterday although she said "industrial relations disputes do of course have an impact".
She would not quantify how much business was down.
She said Mandate members had rejected a Labour Court recommendation to resolve the dispute that was "generous" and meant 90pc of staff would get a wage increase.
She also noted that the union had gone on strike before the company had actually imposed any cuts.
But the union accused the company of provoking workers by refusing to give clarification on elements of the court's recommendation, which meant workers would have had to ballot on a document they did not understand.
General Secretary John Douglas said the striking workers were heartened by the support they received.
"No worker wants to go on strike, but our members recognise that if Tesco can get away with tearing up contracts of employment without agreement for pre-1996 staff, it'll be the 3,000 workers on post-1996 contracts who are currently on a higher hourly rate of pay who will be next," he warned.
He said the cuts would result in some workers experiencing a reduction in their earnings of up to 20pc.
The union leader said Tesco is the most profitable retailer in the country with estimated profits of more than €250m a year.
A Tesco spokesperson claimed less than half of workers in stores on strike voted in favour of industrial action, with six stores voting no and two having their ballots cancelled due to technical issues.
"Up to 60pc of colleagues came into work in the stores on strike," she said.
"They have been supported by volunteers from our head office and store management teams."