A message to all Tesco Ireland workers ahead of tonight’s ballot for industrial action
Mandate Trade Union Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light gives a brief update to all Tesco Ireland members.
This evening your Union will commence a ballot for strike action in 11 Tesco stores, tomorrow evening another 15 stores will follow. It would be wrong to think that because these initial ballots are confined to some and not all stores that the issue at the heart of the current dispute does not matter to the majority of Union members in Tesco Ireland. You should steer clear of this dangerous belief for no other reason than, this is what the Company want you to believe.
Over 12 months ago the Tesco Ireland business, which remains significantly profitable, decided to attack the terms and conditions of employment of over 1,200 of your fellow Union members employed on pre 1996 contracts of employment. Regardless of the fact that the Company failed to justify these cuts, they also adopted a new and most aggressive approach in that they declared the changes would be made with or without the agreement of the workers concerned.
We now know that the attack on pre 96 contracts was central to a bigger plan called Project Black which was put together at the request of Tesco Ireland by an external team of legal experts who specialise in advising companies how to avoid Trade Unions and where they do exist, how to weaken them. Typically advice is given to the employer to slowly disengage from dealing with the Union and to frustrate them at every opportunity. Tactics such as delaying pay negotiations, denial of access for Union Officials and Shop Stewards, removal of Union notice boards, making it more difficult to train Union activists, selective interpretation of collective agreements and reluctance to engage at 3rd parties are often used. The reason why this all seems so familiar is because this has been the reality of dealing with Tesco Ireland over the last year and more. Of course management will tell you that this is all nonsense and just in case you are inclined to believe them ask yourself why over the last number of days we have witnessed these forms which facilitate the departure of Tesco workers from the Union appearing in some stores.
Further proof of this is in my hand which is a copy of the latest Company propaganda being circulated by some store management. First the document unwisely attempts to tell Union members how to vote in their secret ballot. The letter then goes on to say, and I quote, “Think about your livelihood, your bills, your bands, your pay, the 4% pay rise that you got in the past 12 months, don’t let any of this be affected.”
Of course they are right and you should not let them be affected, but not as they go on to suggest by “looking after No 1”. All of your conditions were hard-fought for and won by Tesco workers as a strong collective over the past 20-30 years. One thing is for sure in a company of individuals, all of the terms and conditions brought about and protected by the collective power of workers in a Union will soon disappear. This is the vision of the future that management have for the business and it’s not nice, the question is will you and your fellow Union members let it happen?
The time has now come to put an end to the Union busting tactics contained in sinister plans like Project Black. Tonight your fellow members will be afforded an opportunity to start the fight back not only for themselves and their pre 1996 colleagues but indeed for all of you employed in Tesco Ireland. As they face the ballot box it will not be an easy decision to make, contemplating strike is always difficult. However, they will and must make a decision knowing that to do nothing and allow management to escalate the attack on terms and conditions of employment will lead to a worse place for all Union members employed in Tesco Ireland now and for the foreseeable future.
As we begin the fight to preserve the terms and conditions of employment for all workers in Tesco Ireland, we must send a strong message of determination beyond the first 11 stores who face the ballot box tonight and always remember…
…TOGETHER WE ARE AND ALWAYS WILL BE STRONGER.