Union Representing Tesco Ireland Workers Announces Strike Action
The trade union representing Tesco Ireland employees has announced a strike on Valentine's Day (14 February), after 78% of union members voted for strike action following a disagreement with the retailer over changes to employee contracts.
Mandate Trade Union, which represents more than 10,000 employees of the retailer, said nine stores will strike at the outset, but that an additional 15 stores may participate after balloting.
Stores affected are located in areas including Dublin, Bray, Navan, Sligo, Longford, and Tralee.
Tesco Ireland assured customers in a statement that its stores would remain open for business on the day of the proposed strike, and urged Mandate to 'rethink its strategy'.
Labour Court Recommendation
Mandate said that the company is trying to push through changes to contracts without agreement for roughly 250 employees who were hired before 1996.
The matter had gone before the Labour Court, resulting in a recommendation released in November 2016. The proposed resolution would see the rate of pay protected (with 90% of affected workers seeing a pay rise, protection of two-thirds of guaranteed overtime, along with other concessions), or the offer of a voluntary redundancy, with an average payout of €105,000.
However, the union said the revamped contract would force some workers to receive pay cuts of 15%. The employees wish to maintain their pre-1996 contracts.
Tesco Ireland replied to the decision by reiterating its Monday admonition of the company, urging it to comply with the Labour Court's recommendation and call off the strike action, saying it was 'extremely disappointed'.
In a statement released Tuesday, the retailer said:"Our business must be able to meet the needs of our customers but terms and conditions nearly quarter of a century old do not take account of the growth of late night, weekend and online shopping and create unfairness as hours are not evenly spread out.
"Tesco is the only employer in the food retail sector to recognise trade unions, offering above market rates of pay, conditions, benefits and careers. We operate in an intensely competitive market against non-unionised retailers who Mandate does not attack.
"We are further disappointed that Mandate are engaging in a campaign of misinformation to misguide our colleagues and damage our business impacting everyone who works for Tesco."
'An Abuse of Power'
Tesco had previously accused Mandate of 'misguiding' employees by saying there was an alternative to the proposed recommendation.
However, the union said that Tesco Ireland had not given them a chance to vote on the Labour Court recommendation before implementing 'certain aspects' of the recommendation, although these were not specified.
Tesco Ireland has denied this accusation.
It added that Tesco had never given justifiable reason to change some workers' conditions of employment, and called the behaviour 'an abuse of power' against local workers who have been employed for more than two decades.
John Douglas, Mandate's general secretary, commented: “Tesco is the most profitable retailer in the Republic of Ireland with estimated profits of more than €200 million annually and has recently purchased the largest UK wholesaler Booker for €4.3 billion."
“Meanwhile, Tesco workers in Ireland who have worked with the company for more than 21 years, and are already classified as low-paid on slightly more than €14 per hour, are being told to accept imposed changes to their contracts or get out the door."
Mandate said that strike action could be avoided if the company guaranteed that no changes would be made to existing contracts of employment without agreement.
© 2017 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Karen Henderson. Click subscribe to sign up for ESM: The European Supermarket Magazine