Tesco's Union dispute grows bitter

Mandate says Tesco is intimidating workers - while the chain claims union pickets are blocking access to shopping centers

Tesco's Union dispute grows bitter

Photo: RollingNews.ie

Tesco has been accused of playing mind games with its staff during its ongoing industrial dispute.

Over 2,000 Mandate members in 22 stores will be on strike by next Wednesday. Another 24 stores were balloted for industrial action since Monday - 6 agreed to join the picket, with the remaining 18 choosing not to.

Mandate claims the supermarket is trying to force long-serving staff to accept poorer contracts - and that not honouring these 1996 terms sets a precedent for other workers' terms to be altered.

Tesco, meanwhile, has argued that the contracts mean that too many people are working during the earlier, quieter times of the week.

The company says that old contracts must be updated to maintain competitiveness: "To compete robustly, Tesco needs to improve customer service by changing some terms and conditions that are nearly a quarter of a century old and are not suitable to meet our customers’ demands and current shopping habits. We have worked hard over 13 months to reach agreement on how we will fairly compensate our affected colleagues for this change."

Gerry Light the Mandate Trade Union's Assistant General Secretary has argued that the retailer has a "union-busting agenda" and claimed that Tesco management has intimidated its members and disrupted the balloting process by not allowing votes to take place in its canteens.

Tesco stated that, "Mandate’s reckless actions are impacting on other retailers in shopping centres too."

"Mandate seek to say this is due to where pickets are placed but it is in fact to do with the behaviour of the pickets who are seeking to block access to shopping centres and their car parks," Tesco continued.

The retailer says the union must revisit its strike plans in the wake of the ballot - calling the decision to continue "reckless."

Gerry Light condemned Tesco Ireland’s management of the dispute: "Mandate Trade Union fully supports the democratic right of our members to decide whether to strike or not to strike and we respect the decisions made by all of our colleagues in this regard.

"Unfortunately Tesco Ireland only recognises ballot results when they are in their favour and chooses to ignore those that don’t suit their purposes such as our members’ decision not to accept the Labour Court decision," he concluded.

Ibec said yesterday that it won't meet The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) at the Labour Court today as originally agreed, as it believed the invitation was being used to encourage a vote for strike action in some stores. It described the proposed talks as being, "not helpful to the current situation."