Striking Tesco workers reassured over family income supplement

Department of Social Protection says weekly tax-free payment not suspended

Tesco workers picketing outside Tesco Metro in Drumcondra, Dublin, on Friday. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Tesco workers picketing outside Tesco Metro in Drumcondra, Dublin, on Friday. Photograph: Dave Meehan

 

The Department of Social Protection has moved to reassure striking Tesco workers that they remain entitled to family income supplement (FIS) during industrial action.

It comes amid allegations that management in some striking stores warned staff they would lose the supplement while on strike. FIS is a weekly tax-free payment available to low-paid employees with children.

The issue was raised on Thursday at the Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection, following which committee chair John Curran TD wrote to Helen Faughan, assistant secretary at the department.

“It was alleged that some members of management were threatening striking workers with the loss of their FIS. The joint committee is extremely concerned that workers may be prevented from exercising their employment rights by such a tactic,” said Mr Curran.

“Besides the other disturbing elements of the situation the fact that management of any company may be accessing HR records for the purpose of identifying individuals in a vulnerable position suggests that there may be serious data protection concerns.”

Suspension

Ms Faughan said there was no provision in the FIS legislation “which allows for the suspension or termination of FIS in the event that the recipient is involved in industrial action”. She said that an “incorrect reference had been included on our FIS award letters to the effect that ‘If you stop work because of a trade dispute you must stop claiming FIS’.

“Arrangements are being made to have this removed forthwith. Similar erroneous references have been removed from the department’s website.”

A spokeswoman for Tesco, asked whether striking staff had been warned that their FIS could be suspended, said: “Family income supplement is administered by the Department of Social Protection. Tesco does not have access to information related to which of our colleagues, or how many, are in receipt of family income supplement. Eligibility for FIS is a matter for the department.”

A spokeswoman for the department said it had not suspended or terminated FIS in respect of any Tesco worker, specifically on the grounds that they were involved in the ongoing industrial dispute.