Staff working in nine Tesco stores across the State, including Sligo, are to stage an indefinite strike from next Tuesday, St Valentine's Day.The trade union Mandate said the dispute could spread further with workers in 15 other Tesco outlets scheduled to ballot for industrial action this week.
The dispute centres over what the union claims are moves by Tesco management without agreement to worsen the terms of employment for longer-serving personnel.
“The new contracts would result in some workers experiencing reduced incomes of up to 15 per cent along with increased ‘flexibility,’” Mandate said.
Along with the Sligo branch on O'Connell St/Wine St car park, the stores that are due be affected by the planned strike are located on Baggot Street Lower, Dublin; Ballyfermot Road, Dublin; Vevay Road, Bray, Co Wicklow; Clearwater Shopping Centre in Finglas, Dublin; Rear Main Street, Deanscurragh, Longford; Navan Town Centre, Co Meath; Manor West Retail Park, Ratass, Tralee; and Tullamore Retail Park, Co Offaly.A spokeswoman for Tesco said the stores at the centre of the strike next week would all remain open.
The company urged Mandate to accept a recent Labour Court recommendation on changes to terms and conditions of staff who were employed prior to 1996.
The affected stores are expected to be staffed by management and temporary personnel, however it is unknown how many shoppers will refuse to cross the picket line.
If Sligo shoppers support the striking workers other businesses in the Tesco Arcade are expecting a downturn in turnover and profits as the footfall drops.There are greatly concerned that this is not a one-day strike but an indefinite one.
According to The Irish Times
the company said its planned moves would affect fewer than 280 people out of a total workforce of 14,500 and that negotiations on compensation for the change to terms and conditions had been underway for 12 months.
Tesco said it needed to make changes to employment arrangements for the staff concerned. It said the pre-1996 terms and conditions were agreed over 21 years ago before late night, Sunday openings and online shopping came into operation.
“We want to improve our customer service but these terms are no longer suitable as we have too many people working during the earlier quieter times of the week and this also creates unfairness between colleagues. We have always said that we will compensate colleagues for this change,” the company said.
Tesco said that under the Labour Court recommendation pay rates and a 5 per cent share bonus would be protected.It said in the event of loss of income, compensation of two or two and a half times the loss would be paid while a goodwill payment was also available.
Tesco said a voluntary redundancy package of 5 weeks per year of service, uncapped, wason offer. It said the average pay out under this scheme so far was €105,000.
The union said the move by Tesco represented “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”.
Mandate general secretary John Douglas said Tesco was the most profitable retailer in the State with “estimated profits of more than €200 million annually”.
“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,” he said. “Meanwhile, 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 were “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 said the company began its attack on staffemployed prior to 1996 more than one year ago and that some 900 workers had left 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’.”
Tesco said it had always accepted Labour Court recommendations on issues covered by the collective agreement and it urged Mandate to do so on this occasion. “Mandate’s rejection of the recommendation has come despite the Labour Court offering a clear and generous resolution.”
“The Labour Court recommendation was beyond what we believed was affordable but in the spirit of reaching agreement and re-positioning our business in the challenging retail market, Tesco accepted it,” the company said.