Tesco stores across Ireland will strike from today against 'race to the bottom' wage and conditions changes the company is trying to impose on long term workers.
The Tesco’s scheme would impose up to a 20% pay cut on long-term staff. These workers, who have worked for the company for 20 years or more, are currently paid 14 euro an hour, and Tesco want to slash that. That this wage is seen as too high, in particular after 20 years' service, shows why it's important for all of us that the Tesco workers win their strike.
Tesco are secretive about where they make their money, but the parent company made 129 million sterling in 2016 and the Irish subsidiary had a total revenue of 2.8 billion euro in 2012-2013. In other words, this is not a pay cut imposed as a last measure by a company tottering on the edge of bankruptcy- its purpose is purely to push up profits a little more.
Because Tesco are targeting long service workers, many of whom may be near retirement, they are a small minority of the total workforce. 250 workers are targeted by management but Mandate organises a total of 10,000 Tesco workers. Tesco management are gambling that people will continue to shop at Tesco, in particular the majority of branches that will not be directly on strike. Proving they are wrong is essential to protecting all our wages & conditions.
John Douglas of the union Mandate who organise the majority of Tesco workers in Ireland said over the weekend:
“In recent days, Tesco Ireland have said that the impending strikes are not justified because they have not yet actually made the contractual changes. In response, last Friday Mandate wrote to the management of Tesco Ireland saying that if they committed to not making changes to their staff’s contracts without agreement with them – rather than trying to impose change unilaterally – then the strike due to start on Tuesday could be called off. Unfortunately, to date we have had no response from Tesco Ireland to our letter.”
Mr Douglas said that Tesco’s actions constitute an abuse of the company’s considerable economic power against a small number of local workers who have given more than 20 years of loyal service to the company and its customers.
“No worker wants to go on strike, but our members recognise that if Tesco can get away with tearing up contracts of employment without agreement for pre-1996 staff, it’ll be the 3,000 workers on post-1996 contracts who are currently on a higher hourly rate of pay who will be next. That’s why we’ve seen such strong support from our members in these ballots for industrial action, particularly from those not affected by cuts, yet. They understand that together we are stronger,”
The management plan to tear up the decent pay and conditions of the remaining pre-96 workers is a threat to every worker in Ireland who has or hopes for pay above the minimum wage. If Tesco spread a culture where they can destroy what has been won in the past none of our often hard won pay and conditions are safe.
Back before we had unions workers (who were often kids) worked 6 days a week, 12 hours a day without holidays and had short lives as a result. It took many years of struggle to win what we have now and over the last two decades a lot has been lost, particularly for new workers. It's long past time we not only called a halt but started to fight to win back what has been lost.
Every worker is entitled to earn at least a living wage with proper holidays and notice of when they are expected to be in work. If we can't win back that minimum, we are on a slippery slide back to the 80 hour week.