Seanad supports motion urging Tesco to respect workers’ rights
House calls for management to allow long-serving employees keep existing conditions
Tesco workers and supporters at a picket in Artane. Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan said up to 250 long-serving workers had been told they could either lose their jobs or take cuts in pay and accept changes to their shifts. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times
Seanad Éireann has given cross-party support to a motion calling on the management of Tesco in Ireland to respect the rights of long-serving Tesco workers to maintain their existing terms and conditions.
Fine Gael Seanad leader Jerry Buttimer said he would second the Sinn Féin motion to get cross-party support, on behalf of the rest of the House.
As a strike at the supermarket giant spreads to more stores and enters its second week, Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan said: “At the heart of the dispute are issues of respect and decency – respect for workers who have given a lifetime of service and decency with regard to their terms and conditions.”
He said up to 250 long-serving Tesco workers had been told they could either lose their jobs or take cuts in pay and accept changes to their shifts.
Mr Gavan said he had been “shocked by the levels of intimidation and bullying”. He claimed: “Tesco hired a legal firm of union-busters and initiated what it calls Project Black, a project to de-unionise the company.”
He said he had heard the story of a woman with more than 20 years’ service, “who on coming into work was presented, without warning, flowers and a leaving card by management. Many workers have been reduced to tears.”
Mr Gavan stressed that the motion was carefully worded and they were “not being in any way prescriptive as to how the dispute should be resolved. We are simply calling on Tesco management to respect the rights of their long-serving employees.”
Mr Gavan said “we must speak with one united voice today. We should support the men and women who are out in all weather conditions today because they want to stand up for decency and respect and, above all, in solidarity with their fellow workers.”
Independent Senator Alice Mary Higgins supporting the motion, described it as “very reasonable and fair”.
She said: “Considering the amount of resources expended by Tesco, a company with €250 million in profit, one knows the matter cannot be about a small number of workers.”
She said the issue was about “remaking the way work is done so an individual’s contract no longer stands when facing the preferences of a company for a new business model”.