Strike by Tesco workers called off pending further talks

Mandate trade union and company to attend Workplace Relations Commission on Friday

The dispute centres on plans by Tesco to move some 300 of its staff recruited before 1996, to less favourable contracts introduced for personnel taken on after that date. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

The dispute centres on plans by Tesco to move some 300 of its staff recruited before 1996, to less favourable contracts introduced for personnel taken on after that date. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

A strike by Tesco workers belonging to the Mandate trade union which was due to be held on Thursday has been called off pending further talks between the parties.

As many as 5,000 workers were due to take part in the industrial action on Thursday, according to the union, but both parties have now agreed to take part in further talks at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

The dispute centres on plans by Tesco to move some 300 of its staff recruited before 1996 to contracts introduced for personnel taken on after that date.

Mandate has said the issue concerns pay cuts of 15 per cent to 35 per cent, reductions to overtime rates and changes to rosters.

Tesco says the revised conditions would continue to offer a guaranteed share bonus and a 2 per cent pay rise backdated to April last year.

About 700 long-term staff had already accepted a voluntary redundancy offer from Tesco rather than a change of contract.

“Tesco will not set any further dates for the implementation of contract changes and Mandate have therefore deferred their intention to proceed with industrial action,” said a statement issued by the trade union.

“In the meantime, Mandate and Tesco have agreed that no hostilities between the parties will take place until those procedures have been fully exhausted,” it added.

Tesco also confirmed it had accepted an invitation from the WRC to attend a fifth series of talks on Friday, which has prompted a postponement of the strike.

Improved offer

The company said on Wednesday that it brought forward an improved offer for the workers during WRC talks earlier in the week and urged Mandate to consult its members over the revised proposal.

The union had said it expected between 4,000 and 5,000 workers to join picket lines in support of their 300 colleagues on pre-1996 contracts.

Of the 14,500 staff employed by Tesco across 148 stores in the Republic of Ireland, some 12,000 are represented by Mandate.

Speaking on Wednesday morning, its general secretary John Douglas offered to postpone the strike if Tesco acceded to additional Labour Court talks aimed at resolving the dispute.

Tesco and Mandate exchanged statements over the course of the day, each accusing the other of adopting an intransigent position as the prospect of a strike loomed larger.

Mandate said its members had balloted for industrial action as the revised contracts for pre-1996 employees are considerably less favourable than current working conditions, while Tesco said the changes are necessary to improve customer service across its stores.