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Sunday 21 January 2018

All-out Tesco strike set for Thursday is called off

Tesco Stock Picture
Tesco Stock Picture

Annemarie Walsh

AN all-out strike at 70 Tesco stores tomorrow has been called off after the state's chief industrial relations troubleshooting body issued an invitation to talks.

Mandate has cancelled tomorrow's work stoppage, which was due to begin at 7am. Tesco said it has accepted an invitation to talks.

An indefinite strike was due to take place in a row over a company plan to move long-serving staff onto a lower-paid contract.

It was unclear whether the stores would have been able to open tomorrow.

Mandate had claimed the strike would close the stores but a Tesco spokeswoman said the supermarket giant was “confident” it would be able to open for business.

She said this was because it expected some staff to pass the pickets, along with managers.

Mandate, which represents most staff, planned to mount pickets but Siptu members were not planning to take part.

Siptu official Derek Casserly said the union had served notice of industrial action on the company if it imposed cuts, but would not act yet as this was still a threat.

Mandate claims staff will suffer a reduction in earnings of up to 35pc under the plan due to cuts to basic pay, premium rates and guaranteed overtime. Up to 1,000 long-serving staff were targeted under the plan, but roughly 700 have left under a voluntary redundancy scheme.

When asked why it is necessary to cut wages if its aim is to achieve more flexibility, a Tesco spokeswoman said that guaranteed overtime is not“sustainable” as it offers the highest market rates but has to compete against non-unionised retailers.

Although the company does not publish its profits, she said sales dropped by 2pc last year.

She said Tesco is very disappointed that Mandate would not put a compromise tabled at the Workplace Relations Commission to members to vote on it.

Talks broke down at the Workplace Relations Commission earlier this week, prompting Mandate to announce tomorrow's strike.

The company’s revised offer means basic pay would remain the same, although guaranteed overtime would be axed and premium pay would fall.

It includes a 2pc pay rise, a 2pc lump sum back payment, a guaranteed 5pc share bonus, and €3,000 compensation.

Earlier today, Tesco rejected Mandate’s call for it to attend the Labour Court, which the union said was part of agreed procedures. It said such a move would be “premature”.

Mandate General Secretary John Douglas said the WRC had requested both parties to stand down on their threats. "There are still very difficult issues between the parties, but if we attend talks in good faith, we should be able to resolve them."

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