Tesco/Mandate mediator ends involvement in dispute resolution process

Mandate Trade Union General Secretary John Douglas has written to Tesco Ireland confirming that the mediation process between the two parties has now reached an inevitable end.

The letter from Mr Douglas follows a communication from Raymond McGee, the agreed mediator appointed by the Labour Court, who indicated that there was a ‘deadlock’ and he would now ‘step away from the process.’ Mr Douglas explained how Mandate was the only party to table a resolution proposal during the mediation process.

Furthermore, Tesco management have withdrawn the offer of redundancy for ‘Pre 96’ workers, which the company had always said was part of the dispute resolution process. On that basis not only the mediation process but also the dispute would now appear to be over.

Mr Douglas criticised the company for their lack of engagement and “totally disregarding the return to work protocol agreed with the Labour Court”. The protocol stated that there would be no retribution from either side for their participation in the industrial action.

He said, “Since then and up to the present day Tesco management have engaged in a deliberate campaign of retribution and penalisation against Mandate members and activists who legally and peacefully participated in industrial action, as is their human right.”

Mr Douglas confirmed that Mandate is preparing to ballot ‘Pre 96’ workers for protective industrial action to ensure the company does not attempt to cut their pay or conditions of employment without agreement in the future.

Separately, Mandate Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light has sought a meeting with the company to discuss the following:

  1. Suitable percentage pay increase across all hourly rates for a period of 12 months
  2. Appropriate upward adjustment to ensure greater equality across hourly pay rates
  3. Enhanced/Secure weekly hours including the creation of more full time jobs
  4. Enhanced work life balance arrangements to include a review of current rostering, shift arrangements

He said, “Our members have told us that pay equality is an important issue for them and they won’t easily forget that it was cited as a key justification by Tesco management for their stance during the recent pre-96 contract dispute.”

He added, “Therefore we’re happy to develop this concept further with the company as long as it is equality upwards, and not a race to the bottom in Tesco Ireland. The principle of equal pay for equal work cannot be used selectively and then discarded by the company when it suits them.”

Mr Light has also sought a meeting to discuss the failure of the company to pay the full 4% pay increase owed to ‘Pre 96’ workers.

“We cannot allow Tesco management to pick and choose which workers should be afforded a pay increase. The fact that the longest serving members of staff in Tesco are now owed 4 percent should be a worry, not only for the 3,500 thousand Tesco workers currently earning more than them, but also for all other workers in Tesco because if the company get away with this, who knows which group of workers and what established term and condition will be next,” said Mr Light.

Mandate to suspend Tesco strike

The below letter has been issue by Mandate Trade Union to all Tesco workers involved in industrial action:

“To all Mandate members in the 16 Tesco Stores on Strike, the 6 Stores joining the strike on 3 March all Pre 1996 Members:  

Dear Member,

Late this evening an invite was received from the Labour Court inviting the parties together with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the employers group IBEC to attend discussions in the Labour Court regarding the current dispute. During the course of these discussions the Labour Court requested the following and the parties agreed: 

  • That Tesco Ireland Ltd refrain from unilaterally imposing changes to the pre 96 contracts for the duration of the process.
  • That Mandate Trade Union suspend its picketing of all Tesco locations as and from tonight 24 February 2017 and that pickets due to be placed on 3 March 2017 are also suspended for the duration of the process.
  • That both parties agree that there will be an orderly and peaceful return to work and that there are no recriminations either by or against staff or management as a result of the dispute to date.
  • Both representative organisations, ICTU and IBEC and their affiliates will enter intense discussions under the auspices of the Labour Court to continue to work for a permanent solution to this dispute.

I would like to thank all of you for your personal resolve and solidarity during this most difficult time, we will keep you fully appraised of all developments as the discussion proceeds.

Yours in solidarity

For Mandate Trade Union

John Douglas

Mandate General Secretary”

After current round of ballots over 2,000 Tesco workers in 22 stores will be on strike from next week with 52% voting for strike

Mandate Trade Union says it assumes that Tesco Ireland instigated IBEC’s withdrawal from tomorrow’s scheduled meeting between Labour Court, IBEC and ICTU 

Company’s own figures show that striking stores are down over 80% in sales while non-striking stores business has fallen by up to 30%

The Mandate Trade Union has said that after the current round of ballots over 2,000 Tesco workers in 22 stores will be on strike from next week – the strike began with only eight stores – with more stores due to be balloted next week. The majority of workers balloted to date – almost 52% — have voted in favour of strike action.

John Douglas, Mandate General Secretary explained that this evening the Tesco workers in Sligo Town agreed to join the industrial being taken to ensure that new contracts aren’t imposed on colleagues without their agreement.

“Strike notice has been served and these workers will begin picketing from Wednesday, 1 March next. We are in the process of arranging for more ballots to take place next week after requests have come in from the workers in the stores concerned.”

Mr Douglas said that it was disappointing but not surprising that IBEC have announced their withdrawal from tomorrow afternoon’s scheduled meeting between the Labour Court, IBEC and ICTU. He said that he understands that ICTU intends to attend the Labour Court meeting nonetheless.

“We in Mandate can only assume that IBEC’s announcement that it has withdrawn from tomorrow’s meeting – which was due to look at ways of resolving this dispute – was at Tesco Ireland’s instigation, which is of course highly ironic given their mantra-like references to the Labour Court in recent times. This behaviour forms part of a consistent pattern by the company over the past year.”

John Douglas said that Tesco Ireland seems determined to continue to damage their own business, to inflict hardship on their staff and small retailers, as well as impose inconvenience on the public in order to crush Mandate Trade Union.

“Tesco Ireland’s own data – which Mandate has had sight of – shows that the company is not only alienating large sections of its own staff it is also doing the same to many of its customers who have seen through the company’s spin and are avoiding Tesco stores in their droves. The company’s own figures show that stores currently being picketed are over 80% down in sales while stores that are not on strike have lost up to 30% of their business. This is all in pursuit of their union-busting Project Black which is to create a union-free company where workers have no protection. They will not succeed,” Mr Douglas concluded.

Seanad unites to back Tesco workers in dispute

Mandate Trade Union has welcomed the unanimous vote by the Seanad yesterday evening (Tuesday, 21st Feb 2017)  calling on Tesco management to respect the rights of long serving Tesco workers to maintain their existing terms and conditions of work.

The vote was a result of a motion proposed by Senator Paul Gavan for the Sinn Fein Senate team and it had the support of all parties and groups in the chamber.

The motion is a timely show of solidarity as Mandate trade union members enter their second week on strike. The dispute has seen a further escalation with workers in 16 stores now on strike throughout the state and another five joining the dispute early next week – with the ballots continuing this week and next.

Mandate have stated that the strike is a result of an attempt by Tesco management to enforce contract changes which would see the wages of staff recruited before 1996 fall by up to 20%.

Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan, Workers Rights Spokesperson in the Seanad said:

“Today the Seanad as a whole has sent a powerful message to Tesco Management. No Ifs or Buts, just a simple clear message that they must respect the rights of their longest serving employees. Mandate trade union have repeatedly made it clear that this dispute can end – all that is required is that Tesco agree to not force changes to contracts against the will of their members.

“The fact that this motion has received so much cross party support shows that all right thinking people can see the justice in the case made by Mandate. It just isn’t right to turn around to workers who have given 20 years or more service and tell them they can either have cuts to their pay and conditions or redundancy.”

As leader of the Civil Engagement group, Senator Alice-Mary Higgins spoke in favour of the motion in the Seanad said:

“It is very important that we as public representatives speak up for these workers and send a common message in recognition and support of their terms and conditions.  It is also important that we send a clear signal and a reminder that a workers signed and sealed contract can never be cast aside to suit an employer’s preference and power. There is an important principle here and it’s one that affects all workers.”

Independent Senator Lynn Ruane said:

“I’m calling on Tesco management to commit to no changes to any contracts of employment without agreement. I am also concerned at what I have heard about management engaging in union busting tactics. To have such disdain for their longest serving employees is frankly unthinkable. I urge the public to continue to not pass the pickets.”

John Douglas, Mandate General Secretary thanked all members of the Seanad for their cross-party support:

“On behalf of all Tesco workers, some of whom have been forced by their employer to strike for a full week, I want to thank all politicians in the Seanad for their unanimous support.

He added, “Tesco management’s arrogant behaviour has been shocking to their loyal staff and there’s no place for it in modern Ireland. All workers should be treated with respect and not be subjected to intimidation and threats to their living standards simply because being the wealthiest retailer in Ireland isn’t enough.

“The support by TD’s and Senators, along with the general public, has been overwhelming. The vast majority of people see through the divisive tactics of the company and are appalled by their behaviour. If management had simply committed to no changes to contracts without agreement, the ongoing damage to the company could easily have been avoided,” concluded Mr Douglas.

Mandate says workers in more Tesco stores have asked to be balloted next week to join strike

Union says that five additional stores have now voted to engage in industrial action from next week

The Mandate Trade Union has tonight said that it has been contacted by workers in several Tesco Ireland stores around the country to be balloted for industrial action. John Douglas, Mandate General Secretary, said that the workers in the stores concerned will be balloted next week and if they vote for industrial action they would join the strike in early March.

Mr Douglas also said that this week so far workers in a further five stores – Carlow Town, Sandymount and Bloomfield (Dublin), Ballinasloe (Galway) and Newbridge (Kildare) have voted to join the strike bringing the total number of stores who have voted to be part of the industrial action to 21. The workers in a further six stores will be balloted tomorrow evening.

John Douglas, said that tonight’s decision is a real act of practical solidarity by the workers concerned in the face of a lot of scare tactics used by the company including: 

  • Workers would experience cuts in hours if they balloted for strike action;
  • Workers would lose Family Income Supplement should they ballot for strike;
  • Stores would close for good should the workers ballot for industrial action;
  • New staff on temporary contracts would lose their jobs if there was a strike or they were seen on strike.

“No doubt this intense pressure by management had an impact on the votes of some workers, but the union congratulates all those who withstood the pressure and balloted to protect all contracts of employment in Tesco Ireland. Nonetheless, unlike Tesco Ireland, we fully respect the democratic decisions made by all members and the strike will get underway early next week in five additional stores and will continue in the 16 stores where it is currently underway.”

John Douglas said that Mandate’s offer last Friday to immediately suspend the strike if the company refrained from threatening the terms and condition of staff still offers the best option for a resolution to the dispute.

“Five days later, the company’s continued refusal to engage meaningfully with the union poses questions about ‘Project Black’ and its union busting agenda,” Mr Douglas concluded.

Further four stores agree to join Tesco strike after ballots

Twenty out of 31 stores – almost two-thirds – have now supported strike action

Last night the workers in a further four Tesco Ireland stores voted to join the strike which is taking place at the company over the attempt to unilaterally impose new contracts on long-serving staff. The stores concerned are located in Ballinasloe (Galway), Bloomfield (Dun Laoghaire, Dublin), Carlow and Newbridge (Kildare).

This means that from next Monday, 27 February, 20 out of the 31 stores balloted to date will be taking part in the strike – almost two-thirds of the stores concerned. A further 13 stores will be balloting over the next two nights with even more stores likely to be balloted in the period ahead.

Gerry Light, Mandate Assistant General Secretary, said that last night’s decision is a real act of practical solidarity by the workers concerned in the face of a lot of scare tactics used by the company including:

  • Workers would experience cuts in hours if they balloted for strike action;
  • Workers would lose Family Income Supplement should they ballot for strike;
  • Stores would close for good should the workers ballot for industrial action;
  • New staff on temporary contracts would lose their jobs if there was a strike or they were seen on strike.

“No doubt this intense pressure by management had an impact on the votes of some workers, but the union congratulates all those who withstood the pressure and balloted to protect all contracts of employment in Tesco Ireland. Nonetheless, unlike Tesco Ireland, we fully respect the democratic decisions made by all members and the strike will get underway next Monday in four additional stores as will continue in the 16 stores where it is currently underway.”

Gerry Light concluded by saying Mandate’s offer last Friday to immediately suspend the strike if the company refrained from threatening the terms and condition of staff still offers the best option for a resolution to the dispute. 

“Four days later, the company’s continued refusal to engage meaningfully with the union poses questions about ‘Project Black’ and its union busting agenda,” Gerry Light concluded.

Mandate disappointed Tesco have not responded to proposals tabled at talks

If proposals accepted, union would have suspended industrial action 

The Mandate Trade Union has this morning expressed its disbelief and disappointment at Tesco Ireland’s failure to respond – to date – to proposals tabled by Mandate Trade Union at their talks last Friday. John Douglas, the union’s General Secretary, said that if Tesco Ireland had accepted Mandate’s proposals then it would have brought about an immediate suspension of the current industrial action.

At present, the staff at 16 Tesco stores in Dublin, Kerry, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly and Wicklow are on strike with staff in a further 23 stores being balloted this week to join the industrial action.

John Douglas explained that at the talks with Tesco Ireland management held last Friday, the union tabled written proposals in a genuine effort to achieve a breakthrough in the current dispute between the parties.

“Firstly, we acknowledged that it is important to create an environment where Tesco Ireland and Mandate can engage in negotiations to bring about an agreed resolution of the current dispute. In this context, we said that Labour Court Recommendation LCR21340 as currently written does not have sufficient potential to achieve an agreed outcome.

“Secondly, we suggested that Tesco Ireland and Mandate should commit to recommencing immediate negotiations – without prejudice to either party’s position – on a number of relevant issues central to this long running dispute

“Thirdly, to ensure that the negotiations are conducted in an atmosphere conducive to reaching agreement, the union said that we would agree to suspend the current industrial action and that the company should refrain from imposing any changes to existing terms and conditions,” Mr Douglas said.

“Tesco Ireland management responded by stating that they needed more time to consider the union’s proposal, however, nearly three days later they have failed to do so. Such a lack of urgency and unwillingness to engage raises the legitimate question as to whether the company really wants to find a resolution to the current dispute or is there a bigger and more significant objective they are trying to achieve on the back of the pre-‘96 contract dispute.

“Over the past number of weeks the Union revealed the existence of a Company initiative called ‘Project Black’ which we believe is essentially a union busting plan conceived by Tesco Ireland. The behaviour of management at and following the negotiations last Friday strongly supports the view that the union’s interpretation of ‘Project Black’ has been correct all along.”

John Douglas said that this latest behaviour of the company must also seriously raise the question as to whether the senior management team here in Ireland are complying with their fiduciary obligations of not acting recklessly when it comes to protecting the long term interests of the Tesco Ireland business, its 14,000 staff and its loyal customers.

“It would appear that they have made all these considerations secondary to their blind desire to rid themselves of Mandate Trade Union from their business.”

John Douglas called on the Tesco Ireland to immediately engage on the proposal document presented by the Union at last Friday’s talks. Failing such a commitment he said the pickets will remain on the 16 stores currently on strike and these remain strong largely due to the massive support shown by the public for the striking workers.

“Contrary to what Tesco Ireland have been spinning, most impacted stores are experiencing a loss in sales of over 80%,” John Douglas concluded.

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