Strike at Irish Tesco Stores:

Strike at eight Tesco stores set for tomorrow in dispute over pay

Stores affected include outlets in Dublin; Bray, Co Longford, Navan, Tralee and Tullamore

Workers who joined the company prior to 1996 are at the centre of the dispute. Photograph: Luke MacGregor/Reuters

Workers who joined the company prior to 1996 are at the centre of the dispute. Photograph: Luke MacGregor/Reuters

Strike action due to take place this week at two Tesco stores in Ballina and Sligo has been deferred after a “technical error” in the original ballot cast doubt on its legality.

Mandate, the union that represents the bulk of the workers, stressed the deferral should not be taken as a shift in support among workers in the two shops towards the position adopted by management.

However, an indefinite strike starting on Tuesday still looks likely to proceed in eight Tesco outlets over what Mandate claims are moves by management to worsen the terms of employment for longer-serving personnel without agreement.

The stores affected include three stores in Dublin; Baggot Street Lower, Ballyfermot Road and Clearwater, as well as Vevay Road in Bray, Deanscurragh Co Longford, Navan Town Centre, Manor West Retail Park in Tralee and Tullamore Retail Park in Co Offaly.

Further strikes are scheduled to start on Friday. Tesco said all its stores will be open for business as usual, regardless of industrial action.

Workers who joined the company prior to 1996 are at the centre of the dispute. While 700 such employees left last year under a redundancy programme, the proposed contract changes will still impact on 250 staff who could see their incomes reduced by up to 15 per cent, according to the union.

The reason why the strikes in Mayo and Sligo have been deferred is because the votes of staff working in the stores prior to 1996 were included in a supportive ballot among staff employed post 1996 when they had already voted in a separate ballot.

Mandate stressed it was a “technical error”. Tesco management had claimed the decision was taken “to defy Mandate’s call for strike”.

A spokeswoman for the retailer claimed eight of the 24 stores balloted had rejected the strike action call and she asked the union “to rethink its strategy and now accept the Labour Court Recommendation”.

Speaking on Morning Ireland today, Mandate’s general secretary John Douglas said the action was “about fairness, these workers have over 20 years service with the company, they are on over €14 per hour.

“There’ s nothing old fashioned about having a full time job, there’s nothing old fashioned about having €14 an hour, there’s nothing old fashioned about coming into work every week and working very, very hard.”

However Tesco’s director of corporate affairs said Christine Heffernan said it had spent 13 months in discussion with the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court to resolve the issue and has “done everything we can. We have gone above and beyond to reach a solution.”

She said the Labour Court had set out a recommendation “as a way of resolving this situation and Mandate has rejected this recommendation effectively undermining the Labour Court”.

She said Tesco spent 150 hours in talks with the Workplace Relations Commission and trade union representatives and “the Labour Court recommendation has addressed all the issues that have been raised throughout this process.”

Mr Douglas said he believed people would “shop with their conscience” during the strike.

When it was pointed out he was effectively encouraging the public to shop in competing supermarkets which did not have trade unions, he replied “maybe they won’t shop at all tomorrow”.

Tesco condemned the suggestion that customers would take their business elsewhere describing the call as absurd and one which “highlights their removal from the reality of the retail marketplace”.

She also denied claims that it had been circulating materials encouraging staff to leave the union. “We respect our colleagues’ right to choose if they wish to be in a Union or not.

“If colleagues indicate they wish to leave the union then obviously we have to process this request and have back up written instruction from the colleagues to do so in order to stop processing union fees from their wages.”

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