Tuesday 21 April 2009

Tesco announce record profits of over £3.1 billion while forcing pay cuts on Irish workers.

Mandate trade union announced today, (Tuesday, 21 April 2009) that Tesco employees based in Douglas, Co. Cork are to strike following an overwhelming ballot in favour of industrial action by members in the multinational retailer. The union claim that this industrial action could have further implications for Tesco stores throughout the country.

Mandate balloted all 80 members working in the Douglas store due to the company blatantly ignoring long standing 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’s Divisional Organiser, Lorraine O’Brien, Tesco is using the transfer of workers to a new store opportunistically as a means to erode terms and conditions in order to maintain unrealistic profit levels.

The Tesco store in Douglas is due to move to a new premises on 1 May 2009 but it has said openly that the company is not willing to accept all staff members from the old store on their current contracts.

Lorraine O’Brien said, “This was a very difficult decision for Tesco workers to make. Nobody wants to go on strike, especially in the current economic climate and these workers are no different. However, when faced with a threat, not only to the maintenance of their terms and conditions, but also to their standards of living in order that the company continue to pursue ridiculous profit margins, it’s clear that the workers feel this is a fight worth fighting.

“Tesco has said that the company is not willing to accept the transfer of 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,” said Ms O’Brien.

It was announced this morning that Tesco has made record profits of over £3.1 billion for the full year. Mandate claim that these workers are working in one of the lowest paid sectors of the economy and yet they are being told that they will be forced to take pay cuts or else be made redundant only to be replaced with lower paid employees while the company is still extremely profitable.

Ms O’Brien said, “We’re talking about loyal workers in Tesco who have been employed in the company for approximately 30 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.”

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. This could have serious implications for the 12,000 workers in Tesco in the Republic of Ireland.

Lorraine O’Brien said, “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 need to act swiftly to ensure that the terms and conditions of all workers in Tesco are protected.”

Mandate say that the union is available for discussions with the company in order to resolve the dispute, but unless existing agreements are honoured, it is almost certain that a strike will now take place.