Tesco strike scheduled for St. Valentine’s Day

Mandate Trade Union has issued strike notice to Tesco Ireland stating that the action will take place on St. Valentine’s Day, Tuesday, 14th February 2017 and will continue for an indefinite duration. Members of the Union balloted in favour of strike action by a margin of 78 percent.

Mandate, which represents more than 10,000 workers at the company, say the strike will initially involve 9 stores, but could escalate with a further 15 stores expected to ballot for industrial action tonight and tomorrow night.

Tesco Ireland are attempting to force changes to contracts of employment without agreement for approximately 250 workers employed before 1996. The new contracts would result in some workers experiencing reduced incomes of up to 15 percent along with increased ‘flexibility’. Mandate say any attempts to change any workers’ conditions of employment without agreement will be resisted vigorously by their members.

The Union say the company has never justified the cuts to their workers’ conditions of employment and Tesco’s actions are an abuse of power from a major multinational corporation against a small number of local workers who have given more than 20 years of loyal service.

John Douglas, Mandate General Secretary said, “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. The company has confirmed that dividend payments to shareholders will restart this year and their share price has gone up by 33 percent in six months.”

“Meanwhile” added Mr Douglas, “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.”

Mr Douglas said Tesco’s plans are part of a deeper, more sinister plot to weaken the workers’ collective voice which would lead to more part-time, precarious and low-paid jobs.

He explained, “We know that Tesco has hired a multinational legal firm which specialises in union-busting tactics. They have code-named their plan ‘Project Black’ and are trying to undermine any decent contracts of employment remaining in the retail sector in Ireland.”

Tesco began their attack on pre-1996 staff more than one year ago when they intimidated and bullied more than 900 workers out of their jobs through a redundancy programme. The remaining 250 workers in less than 50 stores want to stay in the company on the contracts they have but the company is insisting they accept reduced terms and conditions using a false argument about ‘flexibility’.

Mr Douglas said, “This is about decent work in the retail sector and across the rest of our society. Tesco management managed to get rid of 900 full-time jobs that had some level of stability and could provide a decent, secure income for the workers. Not one of those full time jobs has been replaced.”

He said, “No worker wants to go on strike, but our members recognise that if Tesco can get away with tearing up contracts of employment without agreement for pre-1996 staff, it’ll be the 3,000 workers on post-1996 contracts who are currently on a higher hourly rate of pay next. That’s why we’ve seen such strong support from our members in these ballots for industrial action, particularly from those not affected by cuts, yet. They understand that together we are stronger.”

The Company are placing great emphasis on urging Mandate to accept the Labour Court recommendation. The truth is their commitment to the Labour Court process at this advanced stage is to say the least convenient and somewhat disingenuous as it was a direct result of their actions during the Court process that ensured the recommendation was unlikely to be accepted. Some of the key facts on the Labour Court issue are as follows.

  1. Despite many requests from the Union for them to attend the Labour Court, it was 10 months into the dispute before the Company agreed.
  2. When the Court issued its recommendation on the 21st November 2016, not unusually the Union wrote seeking certain clarifications before its contents could be put before the relevant members. Rather surprisingly the Court responded stating that they were not in a position to give the clarifications because the employer objected to them doing so
  3. Within hours of the Court’s recommendation being issued the Company stated they accepted its contents. However, they went further than this in that they sought to immediately implement certain aspects of the recommendation prior to it being voted on in its entirety by the relevant Union members. The Court subsequently confirmed in writing that the Company should not have behaved like this prior to the Union and its members having an opportunity to vote of the entirety of the recommendation.
  4. Before entering the Court process both parties clearly understood and should have respected that any outcome was not binding on the parties
  5. In the main the Labour Court’s recommendation heavily relied on a WRC proposal which had already been rejected by 97% of the relevant Union members.

Mandate is calling on the company to prevent the upcoming strike by guaranteeing that no changes to existing contracts of employment will be made without agreement.

The full list of stores scheduled to participate in the strike include:

  • Tesco, Baggot Street Lower, Dublin 2
  • Tesco, Ballyfermot Rd, Ballyfermot Upper, Dublin 10
  • Tesco, Vevay Road, Bray, Co Wicklow
  • Tesco, Clearwater Shopping Centre, 11 Finglas Road, Dublin 11
  • Tesco, Rear Main Street, Deanscurragh, Longford
  • Tesco, Navan Town Centre, Kennedy Rd, Dillonsland, Navan, Co. Meath
  • Tesco, O’Connell St, Abbeyquarter North, Sligo
  • Tesco, Manor West Retail Park, Ratass, Tralee, Co. Kerry
  • Tesco, Tullamore Retail Park, Portarlington Road, Cloncollig, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

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