Talks to resolve Tesco strike end without agreement

Mandate members at eight more stores join action over changes to terms of employment

 Tesco staff on strike at the retailer’s store in Phibsborough, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Tesco staff on strike at the retailer’s store in Phibsborough, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Talks between management at retailer Tesco and the Mandate trade union aimed at resolving a strike that has affected 16 of the company’s stores over recent days ended without agreement on Friday.

The strike at Tesco , which centres on terms and conditions for longer -serving personnel, widened on Friday, with about 800 staff joining the dispute and pickets placed outside eight more stores in counties Dublin, Monaghan and Wicklow.

Tesco said in a statement on Friday night that the talks which had taken place throughout the day at the trade union’s request, had ended inconclusively.

The company described the on-going strike in the 16 outlets as “unjustified” and said that all of its stores would be open throughout the weekend despite the industrial action.

The number of Tesco stores affected by the indefinite strike action is now at 16.

Mandate members at some outlets in counties Dublin, Kerry, Meath, Offaly and Wicklow have been on strike since last Tuesday.

The dispute centres on what the union claims are moves by Tesco management to worsen the terms of employment for staff recruited before 1996.

Mandate argues that contracts proposed for such staff would see some workers experiencing reductions of up to 15 per cent in their incomes, along with requirements for increased “flexibility” in their work conditions.

Tesco said changes to the contracts were needed as the original terms and conditions for these workers were agreed more than 21 years ago, before late-night and online shopping and Sunday openings .

It said the planned moves would affect fewer than 280 employees out of a total Irish workforce of 14,500 and that negotiations on compensation for the affected workers had been under way for 12 months.

As the strike widened, Mandate said it was cautious about the meeting on Friday between the union and Tesco management.

It insisted that the strike action will continue “until a satisfactory outcome for the workers can be found”.

The union’s general secretary John Douglas said staff on the picket-lines had “received incredible public support to date and we know this will continue”.

He said the decision to strike was “difficult”, but “sometimes workers are left with no option if they want to protect their terms and conditions of employment”.

‘Irresponsible strike’

A Tesco spokewoman said that all Tesco stores would remain open on Friday and throughout the weekend, “even though an irresponsible strike continues at a small number of our shops”.

Mandate has plans to ballot members at another 23 Tesco stores for industrial action on the company’s plans, with the votes starting next Monday.

Tesco has repeatedly called on the union to accept a Labour Court recommendation on changes to terms and conditions for staff who were hired prior to 1996.

The company agreed to the new talks following Mandate’s request for discussions.

It said it had always been open to constructive dialogue with the union to reach a “reasonable and fair resolution”.