Thursday 19 July 2018

Over 1,000 Tesco staff back strike action if company cuts workers’ earnings


Anne-Marie Walsh Industry Correspondent

Over 1,000 Tesco staff have overwhelmingly backed industrial action if the company cuts long-serving workers’ earnings by up to 35pc.

Mandate announced the ballot result after the supermarket chain announced plans to move the workers onto a new contract.

It said 99pc voted in favour of industrial action, up to strike action, and there was an 85pc turnout.

Tesco initially gave an ultimatum to move staff who started working for it before 1996 onto the new contract by April 18 but has deferred this until May 16.

Mandate will now begin a ballot of its 12,000 members at the chain, in support of the long-serving staff.

Assistant General Secretary, Gerry Light, said notice will be served on the supermarket chain that staff will immediately place pickets on stores if it imposes the changes without agreement. This could lead to store closures.

Mandate has claimed that Tesco refused to attend talks at the Workplace Relations Commission, although Tesco claims discussions had adjourned.

 “This industrial action is not the result of a pay claim,” said Mr Light. “This is the most successful retailer in the country saying that people on €14 an hour are too expensive and trying to cut their wages by up to 35pc. That’s deplorable.”

Tesco said it was disappointed with the result of the Mandate ballot.

“We have proposed a generous compensation offer including a voluntary redundancy scheme at 5 weeks per year of service uncapped and compensation of 2.5 times annual loss of earnings for colleagues moving to our main contract,” it said in a statement.

“We are proposing to move these colleagues to our main contract, which already covers the vast majority of our workforce, as the pre-1996 contract means we have too many colleagues working during the early quieter times of the week and not enough during the busiest.”

Director of Corporate Affairs, Christine Heffernan, said the pre-1996 contracts are “not fit for purpose” due to changing opening hours and the growth in online shopping.

She said the old contracts were agreed at a time when stores did not open at weekends or for late nights.

Despite the ballot result, there is some hope that the row can be resolved.

Mandate said Tesco has accepted an invitation to attend the Workplace Relations Commission for a conciliation conference.

It said it is "cautiously welcoming" Tesco’s commitment to attend talks, but it must be with the intention to "genuinely engage".

“It seems the company was waiting for the result of the ballot before they agreed to engage, but better late than never," said Mr Light.

Tesco said it has written to the WRC "to confirm that we remain open to constructive discussions".

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