Tesco workers in Sligo went out on strike on Friday December 14th over attempts by management to undermine their trade union, Mandate, and to roll back on collective agreements made with the workers through their union. This dispute has been simmering since April 2017 when management first ignored a collective grievance raised by the workers and then continued to ignore a series of letters from their local union official, Ciaran Campbell, attempting to resolve the issue.
Members were duly balloted for industrial action which was supported by 97% of those who voted, on a turnout of 85%. Mandate has also issued strike notice to management for this coming Friday (December 21st) and Saturday (December 22nd). Workers in Tesco in Carrick-on-Shannon will be joining their co-workers on strike on Saturday 22nd.
Mandate General Secretary, John Douglas, has said the changes to working conditions will have an adverse effect on the lives of 300 of the company’s most experienced employees. “It will mean a 15%-20% reduction in the earnings for those workers. It’ll mean that they have to make themselves available any time between 7am till 11pm, five days over seven, so Monday to Sunday, to work.”
“It’ll mean that they’ll lose any guaranteed over time that they may have accumulated over the years. It’ll mean that they have to be totally available at the beck-and-call of the company to come in any time they want them to.”
He said that it is regrettable that the Tesco workers have been forced to escalate their dispute, but the company bears sole responsibility for this. “Our members do not want to be on strike. No worker does,” said Mr Douglas. “But when a major multinational and highly profitable retailer is constantly undermining your working conditions and your right to be represented by your trade union, you are not left with many options. You can either roll over and take it, or you can fight back and I commend the Sligo and Carrick-on-Shannon workers for choosing to fight back.”
Mr Douglas said he had written to the company in an attempt to avoid these strikes with very clear and concise demands. “If they refuse to answer or say no, it should become clear to all that Tesco’s real agenda is about de-recognising their workers’ right to be represented by a trade union and undermining their working conditions,” said Mr Douglas.
Speaking from Dublin, Éirígí representative Brian Leeson said “ It’s great to see Tesco workers taking a stand for their basic working conditions. The constant pressure on, and erosion of, working conditions for low-pad workers needs to be faced up to. These workers deserve the support and solidarity of the wider community.”