Eight more Tesco stores join picket-lines this morning

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Up to additional 800 Mandate Trade Union members in eight Tesco stores in Dublin, Monaghan and Wicklow have joined their colleagues on strike this morning (Friday, 17th February 2017) bringing the total number of stores on strike to 16.

Since Tuesday, more than 700 Tesco workers have been picketing eight Tesco stores in Dublin, Kerry, Longford, Meath, Offaly and Wicklow. 

While Tesco Ireland yesterday accepted Mandate’s offer of a meeting on a “without prejudice’ basis to discuss the issues in the dispute, the union says that it is still cautious about the meeting and that the strike will continue until a satisfactory outcome for the workers can be found. 

John Douglas, Mandate General Secretary said, “Our members have received incredible public support to date and we know this will continue as the eight new Tesco stores come out on strike today. 

“It is always a difficult decision to take industrial action, but sometimes workers are left with no option if they want to protect their terms and conditions of employment,” said Mr Douglas. 

“Of course, we hope a resolution can be found when we meet with the company, but for now, our plans are to continue the strike as long as necessary.”

 Mandate Trade Union has plans to ballot another 23 Tesco stores for industrial action starting on Monday, 20 February next.

 

Mandate welcomes Tesco Ireland agreement to engage in ‘without prejudice’ talks

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The Mandate Trade Union has this afternoon welcomed Tesco Ireland’s agreement to enter into ‘without prejudice’ talks with a view to settling the current dispute over contracts for pre-1996 workers at the company. Currently eight stores in Dublin, Kerry, Meath, Offaly and Wicklow are on strike with a further eight joining the dispute tomorrow in Dublin, Monaghan and Wicklow.

John Douglas, Mandate General Secretary, said that he has been in contact with the company with a view to setting up a meeting over the coming days.

“Whilst we welcome Tesco Ireland’s response to our offer of ‘without prejudice’ talks we are also cautious as the company has said that the solution to the dispute ‘is as set out by the Labour Court in its recommendation’. However, as we have pointed on a number of occasions to Tesco Ireland an solution to this dispute cannot be found totally within the confines of the recommendation as it currently stands.” 

Having expressed this note of caution, John Douglas acknowledged that Tesco Ireland’s decision to enter into ‘without prejudice’ talks was a positive development in the dispute. He also reiterated his union’s gratitude to the public for their strong support for the strikers over recent days.

“The striking workers have been very heartened by the great public support they have received and on their behalf and that of Mandate I want to offer our sincere thanks to all concerned,” John Douglas concluded.

Mandate makes fresh offer to resolve Tesco dispute

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Union thanks public for huge show of support for striking workers as stoppage enters its second day

The General Secretary of Mandate Trade Union, John Douglas, has this morning written to the CEO of Tesco Ireland, Andrew Yaxley, making a fresh offer of ‘without prejudice’ talks to resolve the issues in the current dispute at the company. Eight stores are currently on indefinite strike in Dublin, Kerry, Longford, Meath, Offaly and Wicklow. A further eight stores in Dublin, Monaghan and Wicklow will join the strike this coming Friday unless the dispute is resolved with a further 23 balloting for industrial action next week

“This morning we have written again to Tesco Ireland offering to enter into ‘without prejudice’ talks to resolve the issues in this dispute. We did so last Friday and got no response, however, we hope that the company will reconsider our offer in the best interests of Tesco Ireland, its customers and staff,” John Douglas said.

In the letter to Andrew Yaxley, John Douglas wrote the following:

“On numerous occasions over the last week, this union has sought assurances that Tesco will not attempt to enforce changes to contracts without agreement, furthermore, we requested that the company on a ‘without prejudice’ basis to its position on the Labour Court Recommendation, engage with Mandate in good faith discussions in an attempt to find a solution acceptable to both parties for the immediate resolution of this dispute.

“Unfortunately, Tesco has not accepted this offer, instead demanding that ‘Mandate accept the Labour Court Recommendation’. For the avoidance of any doubt please be aware that Mandate as an institution does not accept or reject Labour Court Recommendations rather this is the prerogative of the members concerned in a secret ballot and they have overwhelmingly rejected the Labour Court Recommendation. Therefore, it is clear that a resolution of this dispute cannot be found totally within the confines of the Recommendation as it currently stands.

“So once again, I would ask that Tesco and Mandate on a ‘without prejudice’ basis to either parties’ position engage in good faith discussions to find a solution acceptable to all those involved”.

Returning to the conduct of the strike itself, John Douglas said that the striking workers have been very heartened by the support they have received. 

“it’s clear from the tremendous support the striking workers received all day yesterday and today, that the public clearly recognises the importance of the issues involved here – namely that Tesco Ireland, which has enormous economic power, is attempting to unilaterally impose changes to the contracts of employment for approximately 250 workers.

“If Tesco Ireland is successful with this move it would result in some workers experiencing reduced incomes of up to 20%. The company – which is the most profitable retailer in the country with estimated profits of more than €250 million annually – has never justified the cuts they are seeking to impose on workers who earn slightly more than €14 per hour.

“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 who will be 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,” John Douglas concluded.

Mandate ask public to continue their strong support for striking Tesco workers

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Escalation of dispute could be avoided if Tesco agree not to unilaterally impose changed contracts on workers

The Mandate Trade Union has this evening thanked the public for their strong show of support for striking Tesco workers today and has asked them to continue their support over the coming days. The eight stores where the staff are currently on indefinite strike are located in Dublin, Kerry, Longford, Meath, Offaly and Wicklow. A further eight stores in Dublin, Monaghan and Wicklow will join the strike this coming Friday unless the dispute is resolved with a further 23 balloting for industrial action next week.

John Douglas, General Secretary, Mandate Trade Union, said that the striking workers have been very heartened by the support they have received.

“This morning staff at eight Tesco stores went on strike and a further eight will be joining them this coming Friday. Given the support the striking workers have received all day, the public clearly recognise the importance of the issues involved here – namely that Tesco Ireland, which has enormous economic power, is attempting to unilaterally impose changes to the contracts of employment for approximately 250 workers.

“If Tesco Ireland is successful with this move it would result in some workers experiencing reduced incomes of up to 20%. The company – which is the most profitable retailer in the country with estimated profits of more than €250 million annually – has never justified the cuts they are seeking to impose on workers who earn slightly more than €14 per hour.

“In recent days, Tesco Ireland have said that the strikes are not justified because they have not yet actually made the contractual changes. In response, last Friday, Mandate wrote to the management of Tesco Ireland saying that if they committed to not making changes to their staff’s contracts without agreement with them – rather than trying to impose change unilaterally – then the strike could be called off. Unfortunately, to date we have had no response from Tesco Ireland to our letter, however, we would urge them to engage with us so that further escalation of the dispute could be avoided.”

Mr Douglas said that the fact that the company have not responded to the union’s offer of talks leads him to the view that, unfortunately, Tesco Ireland management wants the strike to occur.

“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 who will be 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,” John Douglas concluded.

Striking Tesco workers thank public for their support

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Tesco Ireland have not yet responded to Mandate offer to resolve issues in dispute and avoid strike made last Friday 

Staff at eight Tesco stores around the country have thanked the public for the great support they have received since going on the picketline early this morning. The eight stores where the staff are on indefinite strike are located in Dublin, Kerry, Longford, Meath, Offaly and Wicklow. A further eight stores in Dublin, Monaghan and Wicklow will join the strike this coming Friday with a further 22 balloting for industrial action next week.

John Douglas, General Secretary, Mandate Trade Union, said that the striking workers have been very heartened by the support they have received for the important principal at the heart of this dispute – namely one side being in a position to tear up an existing agreement and impose change against the will of the other side.

“This morning staff at eight Tesco stores went on strike and a further eight will be joining them this coming Friday. The public recognise that Tesco Ireland are attempting to impose changes to the contracts of employment for approximately 250 workers employed before 1996 which would result in some workers experiencing reduced incomes of up to 20%. The company – which is the most profitable retailer in the country with estimated profits of more than €250 million annually – has never justified the cuts they are seeking to impose on workers who earn slightly more than €14 per hour.

“In recent days, Tesco Ireland have said that the strikes are not justified because they have not yet actually made the contractual changes. In response, last Friday Mandate wrote to the management of Tesco Ireland saying that if they committed to not making changes to their staff’s contracts without agreement with them – rather than trying to impose change unilaterally – then the strike could be called off. Unfortunately, to date we have had no response from Tesco Ireland to our letter.”

Mr Douglas said that the fact that the company have not responded to the union’s offer leads him to the view that, unfortunately, Tesco Ireland management wants the strike to go ahead.

“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 who will be 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,” John Douglas concluded.

 

The Tesco strike is a battle for all of us

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Tomorrow is a defining moment in the battle for decent work in Ireland.

On the one hand you have the most profitable multinational retailer on the island of Ireland; generating more than €250 million in profit annually; buying up other companies for €4.3 billion and promising to pay out dividends to already wealthy shareholders later this year – and on the other hand you have a small group of workers with 21 years of loyal service to their company fighting to protect their incomes and their contracts of employment.

Tesco Ireland is attempting to change contracts of employment without agreement for 250 staff members employed before 1996. For the last 12 months they have intimidated and pressured those workers to leave the business and generally made their lives hell.

They have told them they’re “not wanted”, they’re “old fashioned” and they’re “surplus to requirements”. And why? Because those workers have secure hour contracts with relatively decent pay and conditions.

This is the thanks you get for helping to build one of the most successful multinational retailers in the world, and it’s simply not good enough.

In Ireland we already have among the most flexible workforces in the European Union. We have the second highest prevalence of underemployment (involuntary part-time work) in the EU 15 and we have the second highest prevalence of low pay in the entire OECD.

We work hard for our employers but we don’t get the just rewards.

Now Tesco want to drive down those wages and conditions of employment even further.

And if Tesco get away with changing contracts of employment without agreement for these workers, no worker will be safe. Soon they’ll have all workers in Ireland earning close to the minimum wage, just like they do in the UK.

In Mandate we believe that every worker should have secure hours with an income that’s sufficient to provide a decent living standard for the worker and their family.

It’s not right that companies like Tesco can pay dividends to shareholders, massive bonuses to executives and at the same time cut wages for the very people who make them their profits in the first place. In fact, even though Tesco is among the better paying retailers in Ireland, more than 10% of the workforce still has to have their incomes topped up through supplementary social welfare payments. This means that it is the Irish taxpayer picking up the tab for low pay, while shareholders walk away with dividends.

Tesco has never justified changes to contracts of employment for their workers. They are still the same profitable retailer that referred to the Republic of Ireland as “Treasure Island” in the not too distant past. They have paid expensive public relations consultants to come up with a narrative about “flexibility”, “meeting the needs of the customers” and needing workers on “modern contracts”.

The fact of the matter is, Tesco want to pay their workers as little as possible in order to drive up profits for their owners. And the number one way to achieve that is to take the workers’ union, Mandate, off the pitch.

In recent weeks it has come to the attention of Mandate Trade Union that Tesco has employed a leading international legal firm which specialises in trade union busting in the United States and in the United Kingdom. Together they have developed a plan which they have code-named ‘Project Black’. This sinister move should be a worry, not only for all workers in Tesco, but for all workers across the retail sector and in Irish society in general.

If we are serious about ensuring that ‘work pays’ in Ireland and that decency and fairness are at the heart of all jobs in our society, then together we must stop the race to the bottom that Tesco is attempting to escalate. But we can only do it together. Through being united in our trade unions and by supporting workers when they struggle to protect their existing conditions of employment and by supporting them when they battle for improved conditions of employment.

Mandate has recently lodged a claim to bring all workers’ wages in Tesco up to the highest point of their pay scale and we will pursue a campaign to drive all wages and conditions of employment in the retail sector upwards over the coming months and years.

In the meantime, Tesco workers need your support:

  1. Please take the time to send a message to Andrew Yaxley, Tesco Ireland’s CEO demanding the company make no changes to contracts of employment without agreement.
  2. Please join the Tesco Workers Together Facebook page and share the event with your friends on social media.
  3. Finally, if you’re near any of the 8 Tesco stores where Mandate members are preparing to strike a blow for decency and respect at work tomorrow, then please drop down, show your solidarity and don’t pass the pickets.

The implications of Tesco’s actions being successful are too severe to contemplate for our members.

Many will struggle to pay their bills, they could fall behind on their mortgage payments and others will not be able to manage their family commitments.

We as a society need to decide whether it is acceptable for a highly profitable and powerful multinational retailer to impose this type of pain on low-paid workers who have shown more than 21 years of loyalty building that company.

I believe all Mandate members and the Irish public will send a very strong message to Tesco Ireland that this type of behaviour and exploitation of their Irish workforce will not be tolerated.

Thank you in advance for your support.

In Solidarity,

John Douglas

Mandate General Secretary

Mandate update on Tesco strike – Monday, 13 Feb 2017

From tomorrow morning the 14th February pickets will be placed on selected Tesco stores in order to make a stand against the most profitable and wealthy retailer in this country making changes to the terms and conditions of its workers without their agreement. From next Friday 17th February more stores will join the picket lines and it is anticipated that others will follow in the very near future. If Tesco continue to aggressively break you and your Union then eventually all stores will be balloted for strike action.

Regardless of what spin is put on who is right or wrong in this dispute all Union members working in Tesco must reflect on the core objective of what your employer is trying to achieve with the pre 1996 contracts. They are attempting to create a culture whereby worker resistance to future attacks on terms and conditions of employment will be weakened to such an extent that they will inevitably happen.

If any Union member working in Tesco believes that they can conveniently ignore this truth and choose not to support the dispute that starts tomorrow then through their actions they will assist management in their objectives and hasten the day when the next range of wage cuts and alterations to working patterns and duties will be announced by the company. The time to deal with this reality is not when you are staring it in the face rather you need to make a stand now to ensure that management don’t even think about engaging in such behaviour in the future. Project Black has not gone away, it’s still very much in the background, and it remains the greatest challenge to the maintenance of decent working conditions for all Tesco workers both now and in the future.

Over the past number of days management have challenged your fellow Union members absolute right to reject a Labour Court recommendation. To attack the Union and its members in this way is nothing less than barefaced cheek when you consider that the Company have still not paid a 2% pay increase due to pre 96 workers since 2015, and remarkably this was awarded by the Labour Court. It would appear that the argument around the importance of adhering to Labour Court recommendations only applies selectively as far as the Company is concerned.

Much emphasis has also been placed on the reality that when pickets are placed from tomorrow morning the Tesco business will suffer and non-union retailers will benefit. By their very nature strikes are not easy and pain will be felt by all sides. It seems remarkable that Tesco still looks for the recognition and privileges that come from being a unionised employment even though their actions over the past 12 months leading up to this dispute have been more like the non-union retailers they fear losing business to. Only today management have restated that one of their main objectives in targeting pre 96 workers is to create a more equal workforce. Listen to this message carefully. This can only be done one or two ways you either bring everybody up to the highest rate of pay or you bring down the highest rate to the lowest most common rate. You don’t have to guess which approach is favoured by the Company. Your Union has already served a claim which we are determined to pursue to ensure that all terms and conditions are equalised upwards and not downwards.

If we are to achieve these objectives then all Union members must stay strong and united and this starts by embracing and supporting tomorrow mornings strike action. This means that picket lines must be fully respected and not passed. Remember your Union only has one purpose which is to protect and grow your terms and conditions of employment into the future. Our main priority is and always will be you the members. On Friday last I wrote to the Company offering a real and genuine way of avoiding the strike which is about to take place. As I speak to you they haven’t shown either the Union or you its members the courtesy of a response.

The reason for this is because they really don’t want to negotiate a settlement to the pre 96 dispute instead they want to take these workers on and crush them into defeat. Make no mistake about if they are successful they will quickly move to their next target. It’s now up to you the members to stand together to ensure that they will not succeed and that we will win the fight for worker respect and decency in Tesco Ireland for many years to come. We cannot let slip away what it has taken many years of hard negotiations to achieve. The time has now come for you and your fellow members to decide and remember… TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER

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