12,000 Tesco staff are being balloted for industrial action after the supermarket chain refused to universally implement a pay rise recommended by the Labour Court.
On 19 February the Labour Court recommended that Tesco employees were entitled to a 2% pay increase along with a share bonus payment. According to the trade unions Mandate and SIPTU, 1,000 workers were informed by Tesco that they would not be receiving the increase, prompting the call to action.
“The impending industrial dispute could be avoided if the company confirms its acceptance of the Labour Court recommendation in full and withdraws its threat to unilaterally cut the pay and conditions of long serving staff,” said SIPTU organiser Derek Casserly.
“We have stated that our members are willing to engage in meaningful discussions but Tesco has refused our request to attend a Labour Court hearing on the issues which are now the subject of a ballot for industrial action.”
The supermarket refused to implement the 2% increase for colleagues who had been with the chain since before 1996. There are marked differences between modern Tesco contracts and the ones originally signed by these workers, such as guaranteed overtime. According to Tesco, the old contracts do not “take account of the needs of each store or give colleagues an equal opportunity to overtime when it arises,” effectively giving this minority of workers an advantage over their colleagues.
When Tesco first suggested altering the employment conditions for these staff, SIPTU claimed those with older contracts would be worse off by €2 an hour, or €6,500 a year.
“It is incorrect to say that we have refused to implement the recommendation and it is really disappointing that the trade union has decided to adopt this position when the vast majority of our store colleagues have received the benefits of the recent Labour Court recommendation and when we remain open to discussions with the trade unions in regard to our pre-1996 colleagues,” a Tesco spokesperson said on Tuesday.
The store offered “eligible colleagues” a 1.5% cash lump sum payment “consistent with the spirit of the Labour Court recommendation”, but said this did not apply to pre-1996 colleagues.
According to their older contracts they were automatically entitled to a 5% award which was already honoured in 2015.
“We also announced a 2% pay increase backdated to April 2015 to all eligible colleagues covered by the collective agreement with the exception of pre-1996 colleagues whose terms are currently subject to discussions between the company and the trade unions,” the spokesperson continued.
Tesco remains the only large food retailer to operate collective bargaining with the trade unions across all of our stores and so we are really disappointed with their approach to this.”
Despite Tesco’s approach, it is predicted that strike action will follow.
“I think that it’s entirely likely, that there’s a real possibility that because of not only the way Tesco treated workers in respect to this 2% wage increase issue, but also again as I say the very people that they have denied the 2% to are the people who are threatening to remove and reduce significantly their earning power on the 18th April this year,” said Gerry Light, Assistant General Secretary at Mandate.