Thursday 16 April 2009

Mandate trade union is set to ballot for industrial action in Tesco, Douglas, Co. Cork on Monday, 20 April 2009. The ballot is due to take place as a result of Tesco ignoring agreements with the union including the National Replacement Store Agreement.

This particular agreement guarantees workers transferring to new premises the right to hold onto their current terms and conditions. However, according to Mandate, Tesco is using the transfer of workers to a new store as a means to erode terms and conditions in order to maintain unrealistic profit levels.

Mandate’s Divisional Organiser in Cork, Lorraine O’Brien said, “The company has shown total disregard for their workers in Douglas. These staff members are willing to transfer to the new store, which is basically on the same site as the current one, but only on condition that their current contracts and terms and conditions are honoured. Mandate and Tesco already have an agreement in place for this and it would set a dangerous precedent if Mandate did not act on this blatant undermining of procedure.”

She continued, “Some of the affected workers in Tesco have been employed for approximately thirty years, including the period of time under the Quinnsworth brand. When Tesco bought the company in 1996, workers were red circled to ensure their existing contracts would be maintained under the new ownership. What Tesco is trying to do now is undermine the agreements put in place at that time and erode the working conditions of workers who have remained loyal to the company for several decades.”

According to Mrs O’Brien the transfer of the Douglas workers to new premises is being used opportunistically by Tesco to reduce the terms and conditions of the staff members.

“Tesco has said that the company is not willing to accept staff members from the old store who have pre-1996 contracts. Instead, the company has offered staff members a choice of either a compulsory buyout of their terms and conditions or alternatively, the worker will be dismissed by means of redundancy.”

Tesco wrote to Mandate members and had the letters hand delivered on Good Friday (10 April 2009) stating that if the individual had not made a decision by Tuesday, 14 April 2009, then the company would “assume that you (the worker) do not wish to avail of an opportunity to continue your career with Tesco Ireland and we will then proceed on the basis that your position will become redundant on the 30 April 2009”.

Mandate is concerned that should Tesco proceed with these cuts in terms and conditions, the company may begin a process whereby all negotiated contracts and agreements with the union would be ignored when it becomes appropriate for the company.

Lorraine O’Brien said, “There certainly is cause for concern here. If Tesco believe they can ignore agreements with the union at this point in time, then we have absolutely no certainty for other staff members going forward. We are confident that the workers in Tesco will stand together over this issue because if they don’t, we will almost certainly see further erosion of terms and conditions for all Tesco workers throughout the country.

“This is clearly Tesco using the recession as an excuse to make savings off the back of ordinary workers in the pursuit of exorbitant profit levels. It’s also clear that if the company does force through redundancies and transfer Irish workers with thirty years experience onto the live register, they will certainly be hiring more staff on worse terms and conditions,” concluded Mrs O’Brien.