Wednesday 23 April 2008

Delegates urged not to shop in anti-union stores

Mandate trade union General Secretary, John Douglas issued a warning to anti-union retailers in Ireland during his closing speech at the Mandate biennial conference yesterday (Tuesday, 22 April 2008). Mr Douglas warned that anti-union employers in the retail sector will not have a clear run in the race to the bottom.

“What have all the following companies in Irish retail got in common? Lidl, Aldi, B&Q, Next, H&M, Harvey Nickels, House of Fraser, Gap, River Island, Harvey Norman. They are all non-union and in most cases anti-union. They are becoming an ever increasing part of the retail landscape – what they get away with, and how they exploit their employees might become the norm in the retail sector,” said Mr Douglas.

“We in Mandate have a message for those employers who think they have a clear run in the race to the bottom – you are sadly mistaken. The next time you attack workers and workers rights we will be waiting for you. We will fight back at home and abroad – and we will win,” he added.

Mr Douglas urged the Mandate delegates to show solidarity by asking their friends and family not to shop in anti-union stores saying, “Where possible, all of us union members must show loyalty to companies who recognise the rights of workers and treat their staff with respect and dignity. By not shopping in these anti-union stores we can send a strong message to them in the only way they really understand. There’s no such thing as low cost retailers because the real cost in these stores is with the workers who are made to suffer.”

Mandate trade union recently announced major changes in their operational structure, with the union changing their operating model from a “servicing” model to an “organising and campaigning” one. It also said that it would be embarking on a major campaign to organise and recruit workers in the non-union retail sector.

“If we don’t organize non-union employees, we run the risk of our members’ standards being lowered to those applying in the non-union sector,”

Mr Douglas pointed out that while profits in the retail sector increased by 338% over the ten year period 1996 – 2005, income for workers in the retail sector increased by only 126%. The retail industry is the one where the difference between growth in profits and compensation for workers has been greatest. Mandate are concerned that there is an ever widening gap between those on higher incomes and those on lower and middle incomes.

“As a union we have to ask ourselves why these companies have adopted such an anti-union stance. We have shown in the past with companies like Tesco how unions and businesses can work together for a positive outcome for both sides. The reason for such an anti-union stance is quite simple, greed. These companies don’t want to share the profits that their hard working members of staff earn for them.

Mr Douglas concluded the conference saying, “The stronger we are, the better we can deliver a fair deal for our members. In the past we have fought on the line for a fair share for retail and bar workers, we make no apologies either inside or outside the partnership process in highlighting the unequal distribution of wealth in retail or in society. We will campaign, organise and train and where necessary we will fight.”