Mandate update on Tesco strike 20/2/2017

Tonight your Union will commence the next 24 ballot meetings for strike action in our ongoing dispute with your employer Tesco Ireland.

Up to now your fellow Union members in 16 stores have courageously decided to vote for and engage in strike action in the stores where they are employed.

They have done this in the clear knowledge and understanding that the core issues involved in the pre-1996 contract dispute have much greater impact for all Union members in the future.

They have decided to make a stand and are currently on the picket lines fighting for you and other Union members who have not yet decided to join them. Despite what the Company have tried to spin these picket lines remain strong and are hugely effective with most stores reporting 80% and over loss in sales.

Just in case you don’t get it by now I want to simplify what is at the core of the current dispute and I respectfully request that you listen to what I have to say very carefully. The pre-96 contract dispute must be a matter of concern for all Mandate members employed in Tesco Ireland for the following reasons.

Tesco are demanding from your fellow Union members employed on pre-1996 contracts that they do not have the right to reject a Labour Court recommendation and more alarmingly your employer is insisting as a consequence of these workers asserting this absolute right the company will change their terms and conditions of employment without their agreement.

Common sense tells you that if we stand back and allow the company achieve this outrageous objective then we must all collectively accept the dire consequences that will follow in the event of the same approach being applied to whatever other term and condition of employment the employer chooses to target next.

Make no mistake about it these entitlements include hourly rates of pay, weekly hours of work, patterns of work, annual bonus, premium payments, sick pay, work duties, holiday and pension entitlements to name but a few.

All of these benefits were over many years achieved through difficult negotiations by your Union, please don’t presume and make the crucial mistake that without the protection of your Union they will be automatically maintained into the future by a business that is desperate to increase profit levels clearly at the expense of its workforce.

During the current dispute your Union revealed the existence of Project Black which in essence is a concerted plan by your employer to initially weaken the power of your Union with a view to removing it altogether.

If anybody still doubts the intention of your employer in this regard then I want to tell you what happened when your Union met with the Company last Friday in an effort to resolve the current dispute.

Your Union presented in writing a more than reasonable proposal which significantly included the potential to suspend the strike action with immediate effect. Incredibly management walked away from this opportunity, said they wanted more time and now nearly 3 days later they have not shown your Union the courtesy of a reply.

Ask yourself, are these the actions of an employer who wants to meaningfully engage with your Union either now or in the future? The answer is clear and it’s, no. This blatant disregard for your Union will continue until you the members send back a strong unified message that you are not prepared to accept such treatment.

When you cast your vote in the upcoming ballots you must remember the significance of the power that such an entitlement gives you and your fellow Union members.

Through your vote you can determine the type of workplace you will have in the future.

Your employer will encourage you to take a narrow individualistic view and not to look beyond the issues relevant to your fellow pre-96 Union members. Take a moment to think why they are promoting this approach.

The power of your Union lies in the power of workers sticking together.

The day you choose to accept the individualistic approach over the strength of the collective is the day that all of your terms and conditions of employment become more vulnerable and liable to change without your agreement.

Think it’s not possible, then look no further than what is happening to your pre-1996 fellow Union members, it’s taking place before your very eyes.

Significantly the choice is yours to make. Either you choose to take an individual narrow short term view or you decide to accept to stay part of a powerful collective and recognise that we need to stop the broader implications arising from the current pre-96 dispute and in doing so protect the terms and conditions of all Union members working in Tesco Ireland into the future.

Be sure that you choose wisely for the wrong decision will undoubtedly contain much pain for many years to come and you and your fellow workers will not have the collective power to stop it happening, by then it will be too late.

Act now, protect your future, you might not get another chance for a long time to have this type of influence and power and remember TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER.

Eight more Tesco stores join picket-lines this morning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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