Tesco member update – 08/12/2021

An update from Mandate Trade Union General Secretary Gerry Light for all Tesco Ireland members:

“Hello, I wanted to take some time to reach out following the outcome of the recent national ballot on the Workplace Relations Commission proposals dealing with a new pay and reward model. There can be no doubt that the ballot outcome was both emphatic and decisive with 88% voting against adoption of the proposals. It is also important to note that the overall turn out in the ballot was unprecedented with record levels being recorded so I want to thank you all for making this a reality.

During the numerous instore ballot meetings that have taken place over the last number of weeks a sizeable amount of you have been very clear as to why the proposals were not acceptable. To your credit at all times this engagement was constructive and I want to reassure you that your views have been taken on board and they will influence the shape of where we go from here. We have listened and we have most certainly learned. In the letter that we issued to members immediately after the ballot count we promised deeper consultation with you the members and further to this I want to tell you that from next week divisional Shop Steward meetings will take place and these will be followed by a national survey of our Tesco members the results of which in turn will inform a national Shop Stewards meeting that will take place mid-January 2022. The purpose of the survey is not to ascertain your views on the WRC proposal as you have been very clear and unequivocal in this regard, but moreover to gain a better understanding of what arrangements are in stores which are not captured by or current collective agreement, such as working patterns etc.

Even at this stage two main messages have evolved from the balloting process. First, the model of pay consolidation as envisaged in the proposal document is totally unacceptable and second there is an urgent need for a pay increase that reflects the rapidly increasing levels in the cost of living and also the immeasurable contribution that you and your fellow workers have made to the Tesco Ireland business since the arrival of Covid-19. Remember our pay claim is still alive and we intend to deliver to the satisfaction of our members.

Since the announcement of the ballot result on Saturday certain things have been said and published externally some of which are not factual and I want to deal with that now

It is stated that your union went behind closed doors to stitch up a set of proposals. All of the negotiations with the company were carried out under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission this could hardly be described as acting behind closed doors.

A claim is being made that workers were excluded from the negotiations. Again this is simply not true, the voting members on the national negotiating team were made up of Tesco members who were Shop Stewards representing many of the various contract types across the Tesco business.

It is further claimed that the structure of the store based ballot meetings was akin to union busting tactics. The reason why these meetings were restricted in numbers was purely down to Covid safety regulations. In fact it has been clearly proven based on the overall turnout in the ballot that the manner in which the meetings were held resulted in greater membership participation and not less.

These are only a few of the matters commented on in recent days and it is important that you know the facts and not allow yourself to be drawn into the belief that because a set of proposals were rejected by the members that there is something fundamentally flawed in how your union operates. This has happened on many occasions in the past and it is central to the democratic process on which trade unions are structured.  Remember only union members acting in common purpose within their union retain the collective legal power to negotiate with their employer and this is something external parties cannot do. I want to reassure you that the focus of your union remains committed to securing from your employer a proposal that is ultimately acceptable to you the members. 

After nearly 5 years of non-engagement with your employer it is more than reassuring and uplifting to note the degree to which you the members actively engaged in solidarity with each other around the balloting process. From this point forward it is vitally important that this sense of renewed activism and solidarity is not only maintained but strengthened. To this end I would urge that you become more actively involved in union affairs at local level and also to encourage those who have not yet done so to join the union in order to ensure that we can strengthen our collective power at the negotiating table in the future. Regardless of what others might suggest your union has always and will continue to encourage this through coordinating the election of Shop Stewards, Health and Safety Reps and the establishment of House Committees, across all Tesco locations, as well as offering all our activists every support through our Divisional structures through the assistance of our training and development centre.

Since announcing the ballot result we have had no response from your employer so we have written to them requesting that they also carefully and respectfully listen to the key messages that have been fed back from the balloting process. We have also stressed the urgent need for them to meaningfully address your outstanding pay claim. The recent balloting process has shown the need and importance of coming together in common purpose. The solidarity shown across our membership during the balloting process has been positive and is something the Union needs to build on in order to support the future improvement of your terms and conditions of employment. Only as proud and active members of Mandate Trade Union supporting each other we can make sure this happens.

Thank you and stay safe.”

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