Friday 23 August 2019

Dispute continues as Tesco workers strike for two days

Jessica Farry

Tesco employees in Sligo were last week again on strike as the dispute between workers and the company continues.

Workers were picketing outside the Sligo store on Friday and Saturday, with Carrick-on-Shannon workers also on strike on Saturday.

Ciaran Campbell, Divisional Organiser with Mandate Trade Union, claims he sought contact from Tesco regarding the issues on numerous occasions, but never received a reply.

He told The Sligo Champion: "The staff had two grievances. One was to do with canteen facilities being withdrawn and the other was to do with staff searching. This started in the early part of 2017. They couldn't get a resolution at a local level as per stage one of the collective grievance procedure. It was then passed on to me. I wrote ten letters between April 2017 and January 2018 seeking a meeting with the company. Letters went to the local manager and regional manager.

"They weren't even acknowledged. We then referred it on to the Workplace Relations Commission and between June of this year and September, there were four dates offered. None of them have been accepted by the company. We then wrote to the Workplace Relations Commission and said 'thank you for all your efforts, we're going to engage is a consultative exercise with our members to see what they want to do'.

"All of a sudden the Workplace Relations Commission come back and say the company want me to offer another date, which they did, the 24th of October. I said we've already engaged in this exercise already and if we needed them we'd come back to them."

Mr. Campbell says that Tesco need to answer three questions for this dispute to come to an end.

"When we engaged in that exercise, it was unanimous from the members. They said 'we're fed up, this has gone on long enough, we want to engage in industrial action'. Of all the members that could vote, 85% cast their votes, 97% of which said 'let's engage in industrial action'. That's the vast majority of workers in Tesco. We've asked the company three simple questions and if they answered them in the affirmative, this is switched off.

"One - are you going to abide by the collective grievance procedure for this store and the one in Carrick-on-Shannon. Two - are you going to abide by the collective grievance procedures now and into the future for all the stores. Three - are you going to abide by all collective agreements that we have with you for the last number of years? They have refused to answer in the affirmative to each of them. They're coming out with this propaganda that they're willing to engage with the state's industrial relations machinery. Their collective grievance procedure rightly puts stages one and two at local level and at union official level, before you go to a third party institutions of the state. If they suggesting now that all collective grievance will now go to the WRC then the tax player needs to ask questions."

Mr. Campbell also criticized Tesco for not listening to their staff's concerns.

"Tesco seem to be painting this picture that union officials have whipped these people into a frenzy. We have had to engage legally through a secret democratic ballot. 97% of those who voted, voted in favour of a strike. That's an incredible result. Rather than criticising Mandate, they should say 'well maybe they have a point, our staff have spoken'. I cannot for the life of me understand the business reasoning or sense for them to ignore that when it's their staff and to inconvenience the public who have this strike on, they're not going into the shop because they are supporting us. They have to be taking a considerable hit. It just doesn't make sense. The reason is, they are de-recognising the union for the longer term gain. When that's put to them, they won't answer. Personally I think they need to grow a set."

The workers, who would be losing pay in order to go on strike, also opted to donate their strike subsistance payments to Focus Ireland.

"Tesco pay rates are at the top end of the retail industry, they're still regarded low paid workers, some of them are not on major hours, they're not all full-time. Some are on 15 or 20 hours a week.

"This is an inconvenience to them in the run up to the Christmas, they're going to be down wages. We do pay them a strike subsistance. Of all strike subsistance, they're now contributing handsomely to Focus Ireland."

Sligo Champion