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.

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