Solidarity with Striking Tesco Workers in Ireland

December 21, 2018 Leave a comment

Irish Tesco workers were back out on strike in December, against the effective derecognition of their trade union. Mandate members in Sligo have so far taken two days of strike action, with another two to follow on the 21st and 22nd December, being joined by Tesco workers in Carrick-on-Shannon on the 22nd.

70 workers joined the first day of the strike in Sligo, a process that evolved from a collective greivance lodged in April 2017. After Tesco management repeatedly ignored this, eventually Mandate balloted workers with 97% voting for strike action on an 85% turnout!
This dispute, like the previous strike wave in Tesco in 2017, is a resounding rejection of the idea that retail workers will not respond to calls for strike action. Clearly workers in Sligo have shown their determination not to be walked over by management.

The Activist sends its full support to Tesco workers taking strike action in Sligo and Carrick-on-Shannon.

Categories: Updates Tags: , ,

Reject anti-semitism smears, defend union policy & democracy

August 14, 2018 Leave a comment


Usdaw members will have been very disappointed to see that in his first major intervention on the Labour Party since becoming Usdaw General Secretary, Paddy Lillis has emulated Usdaw’s outgoing General Secretary John Hannett in joining in the attacks of the Blairites against Jeremy Corbyn around anti-semitism.

When Hannett stepped down as General Secretary this year, many Usdaw members wanted to see a different approach, most visibly demonstrated by the election of Socialist Party member Amy Murphy as Usdaw’s president defeating Hannett’s preferred candidate.

Yet on this issue, Lillis has waded in with a big splash in the media attempting to throw Usdaw’s weight behind the smears against Corbyn, with no consultation with the union’s ruling Executive Council. Members will worry that this is the first step of a move to run the union in a manner similarly to Hannett, bypassing it’s democratic structures to aid the right wing of the Labour Party.

In this case, demanding the implementation of all the guidance to accompany the IHRA definition of anti-semitism, there are widespread concerns that this seeks to not just tackle anti-semitism but block legitimate criticism of the policies and actions of the Israeli government. This would then be used to trap the left because the main motive is to use the issue to build the campaign to bring down Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership in league with the Blairites, the Tories and the capitalist Establishment.

But it is doubling concerning, given that this would undermine Usdaw’s policy around the question of Israel/Palestine adopted at Usdaw’s 2016 Annual Delegate Meeting (ADM) in solidarity with the Palestinian people against the repressive actions of the Israeli government.

Usdaw members will be expecting that their EC rebukes the intervention of Lillis in this fashion and re-commits the union to implementing policies as democratically decided by our ADM.

Solidarity with Lloyd’s Pharmacy strikers in Ireland

ruth coppinger lloyds pharmacy strike

Solidarity TD and Socialist Party member Ruth Coppinger visiting Mandate picket line at Lloyds Pharmacy in her Dublin West constituency

Last Friday, around 200 workers at 29 Lloyd’s Pharmacy shops across Ireland took part in an hour’s strike action, the first strike action as part of an ongoing campaign to win union recognition and improvements in pay and conditions.

Their union, Mandate, now has a membership density of 30% across the company, with members in 2/3rds of stores in Ireland. Despite this management have refused to have serious negotiations with the union and have instead resorted to sending threatening letters to staff involved in the strikes.

The key points which Mandate members are seeking improvements around are

  • A fair pay increase
  • The introduction of incremental pay scales across grades
  • Improvements in annual leave entitlements and public holiday premiums
  • Greater security of working hours (eliminating zero-hour contracts)
  • The introduction of a sick pay scheme

Messages of support can be sent via visiting their campaign website –


Belgium: There has never been such a strike at Lidl


More reports on the ongoing strike at Lidl across Belgium taken from the website from 29th April 2018.

Lidl staff stand up against unbearable pressure at work


Regular customers can see it every time they visit: the workload is extremely high at Lidl, the staff is very little respected and everything must be the cheapest possible. The problem is common to the whole sector, which has been the subject of negotiations between unions and employers for many years already. With little effect so far: the pace and pressure at work keeps increasing. If we can not hold on, it’s the way out. Competition is intensifying as well as the search for profits by shareholders. These profits are not lacking: Lidl realized an overall profit of 1.5 billion euros in 2015.

By a sector delegate

On April 7, a Lidl store in Oostkamp was shut down for half a day because of the pressure at work. Management has tried to limit the situation to an isolated case. We even laughed with the workload. But some had been engaged. Management promised to reach a negotiated solution, but when another unsuccessful negotiation ended on April 25, a spontaneous wave of strikes began. The staff decided to put pressure on management to find solutions.

The initiative was taken by the grassroots, without an appeal being launched by the unions. The strike spread at high speed, confirming the extent to which the problem of workload is widespread throughout the chain. The staff has enough.

Did management understand the message? It’s debatable. Big boss Dieter Schwarz is the 52nd richest man in the world with $ 20.9 billion in assets, but that’s still not enough for him. This was not offset by a human attitude towards his staff.

During the negotiations, the board proposed that each store be able to deploy an additional 42 hours of work a week, an additional full-time employee. But management wanted to limit this to six months in order to find other solutions in the meantime. Given this short period and the many unfulfilled promises in the past, SETCa did not accept the proposal.

Increasing work pressure is causing problems in a growing number of companies. This drives the workers into action. Think of last year’s actions at Volvo Cars and Volvo Trucks. When unions put the issue on the table, employers do not want to do anything. The government talks a lot about “feasible work,” but its policy makes it easier for employers to make our work impossible. This question will come back more and more often: the increase in workload is a way to increase shareholder profits.

One solution to the problem would, of course, be the recruitment of additional permanent staff so that the work can be distributed. A reduction in working hours to 30 hours per week with salary maintenance and additional recruitment (where current 30-hour contracts would automatically be converted to full-time contracts with associated salaries) is also part of the solution. We must organize the struggle and discuss the demands and tactics needed within the unions and with our colleagues to win victories.


[Interview] “There has never been such a strike at Lidl”


This Saturday was the fourth day of strike in Lidl. The previous day’s negotiations resulted in a management proposal rejected by SETCa / BBTK. The other two unions want to defend the proposal. Yesterday, more than 100 stores still had closed doors. Among the staff, anger has been raging for some time now. We discussed it yesterday with a local delegate from Lidl in Antwerp.

Interview conducted by Luc (Antwerp)

The day before yesterday, the negotiations failed. What is the situation today ?

“Right now, we are going around all the stores to inform our colleagues. With over 100 stores closed today, it is clear that we will continue. Negotiations are blocked on our request for 42 extra hours a week to be allocated immediately to each store, which is an urgent measure. Management only wants to authorize it for a temporary six-month period and, in the meantime, begin negotiations on a new collective labor agreement (CLC). Without new CTC after 6 months, the extra 42 hours will be lost and we will meet again with nothing. We want these 42 hours per store / week to be permanent. Then, the pressure to conclude a healthy collective labor agreement will be the responsibility of the management, not the unions. In the worst case, we will always have those 42 hours. ”

Lidl’s spokesman said he was “bitter” following the rejection of the deal. He believes the agreement was good and that he even understood more than the unions were asking for.

“They made a lot of promises but, with promises, we are nowhere. Lidl has already promised so much to cope with the pressure of work, but nothing ever happens. Last year, for example, the company sent an e-mail to all employees telling them that after consultations with the unions, it became clear that the workload was a problem and that it would be resolved. Nothing was done. In fact, they promise us things for two years. I have a whole record full of action points and management plans to cope with the workload. But nothing has been done yet. ”

How did the strike start? It seems to have developed largely spontaneously?

“A few weeks ago, a strike broke out in an Oostkamp store after the dismissal of a sales manager. The problem of the workload was also asked. The CSC issued a strike notice for the entire Lidl group. Consultations took place last Wednesday, but once again, the management has not gone further than promises to tackle the workload. To top it off, the management also wanted to talk about extending opening and opening hours on Sunday.

“At that time, a number of stores went on strike almost immediately. Some stores were well prepared and went on strike immediately after the consultation. Staff from many other sites joined the movement spontaneously. It is also the strength of the strike. We have seen where the unions are more present, but in many places, the strike started spontaneously from the bottom up, without the union delegation having much control over it.

“In the Antwerp region where I work, it’s sometimes more difficult because of the rotation and the composition of the staff. Sometimes I have to start by explaining what a union is. But I also get calls from colleagues who ask me if they can close their branch. Considering that the directors of the subsidiary company and the management spread a lot of lies and that threats of sanctions exist, one realizes that this wave of strikes is really strong.

“This strike is already historic. Never before had Lidl gone on strike on such a scale. In many stores, colleagues spontaneously took the initiative to join the strike movement. However, there is a lot of pressure from the management and directors of the subsidiary. Locally, there are threats of dismissal, relocation, etc. Yesterday, in some subsidiaries, it was said that we should not go on strike because negotiations were in progress. This has been officially contradicted, but it is clear that there is a strategy behind these allegations. For many colleagues, it’s not easy to oppose their direction, but they do. ”

What are the next steps ?

“At the moment, it’s rather chaotic. Today, we inform as many colleagues as possible about the state of play. Some confusion exists and sometimes doubts, because the union leaders are not of the same opinion. Some people think that it would be better to accept the proposal of management because it is something concrete to have and that otherwise we run the risk of finding ourselves empty handed. At the same time, the realization that this is not a real solution is growing.

“The challenge now is, first and foremost, to make Monday a great day of action where as many stores as possible will remain closed. Not all stores may be on strike, but the actions will expand. ”

Competition in the distribution sector is fierce. Late last year, there was the announcement of a restructuring at Carrefour, and this was the case at Delhaize. How do you situate this problem in its context?

“Yes, Lidl wants to compete with Delhaize, Carrefour, …. Lidl has gone from a hard discounter to stores with a wider range: with brands, its own bakery, a larger fresh aisle … Everything requires more time, but we have to do it all with the same amount of colleagues, or even less. We must work more and more intensively to receive less money.

“At the moment, Aldi is experiencing strong growth. There is a good chance that Lidl will be caught or exceeded in the contest. In this way, we are dealing with an infernal spiral where the pressure keeps increasing on our shoulders to protect the profits. It is important to deal with it.

I imagine government measures like the Peeters Act are not particularly helpful either.

“We are already working extremely flexibly. A large part of the measures introduced by Peters had already been in force for some time. A particular problem for us is the extension of flexible jobs to trade and the facilitation of night work for e-commerce. Electronic commerce is currently very limited at Lidl, but it can have a huge impact on our working conditions. Not to mention pensions. Almost no one at Lidl has a full-time contract. The consequences for our pensions will be disastrous if the government’s projects are actually implemented.

How do you think progress can be made?

“First of all, it’s important that we win this battle and, in the short term, win those 42 hours permanently. This will only be possible if we are able to extend the shares on Monday. In fact, I had hoped that other brands joined the fight, but this is unfortunately not the case. But if we want to thwart the current competition in the retail sector, this will be the way forward and we need to extend the fight to the whole sector. “

Categories: Updates Tags: , ,

Solidarity with the Belgian Lidl Strike


lidl strike solidarity

Workers in Lidl in Belgium have been taking strike action since Tuesday against understaffing, with action growing across the country.

Reports from the company itself state that almost 50%, 147 our of 302 stores were closed on Friday 27th April.

Management has already conceded an extra 42 staffing hours per store for six months, but the strike is continuing as workers want the additional staffing to be permanent.

The strike wave is set to continue on Monday and we will carry further reports.

In the meantime we encourage all of our supporters to take solidarity selfies with the above poster and share on social media  and tag #lidl @UsdawActivist

Stormy final ADM for outgoing USDAW leadership

The left is making steps forward while the right-wing bureaucracy continues trying to hold back struggle at Usdaw’s annual delegate meeting (ADM). The 22-25 April national conference of the retail and distribution union is still underway at the time of writing.

Ryan Aldred (ADM delegate – personal capacity)

The union leadership opposed affiliation to the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) – a rank-and-file body established by transport union RMT and supported by nine national unions.

Every contribution to the debate supported the motion. The leadership admitted its opposition was because Socialist Party members play a leading role in the NSSN.

The vote was clearly 50/50 on a show of hands. But outgoing president Jeff Broome refused a card vote – despite numerous calls and general uproar. About 50 delegates walked out to complain about blatant breaking of the rules.

The protests made to standing orders forced a re-run of the vote. The final result was declared as 42% for, 58% against – a close defeat at the hands of a hostile and cavalier leadership, and clearly justifying the card vote.

The ADM did pass an emergency motion calling on the union’s executive council to support workers at Shop Direct. Three distribution sites in Greater Manchester face relocation to an automated site – which could result in the loss of over 2,000 jobs.

The members are preparing for industrial action and were emboldened by the level of support. Socialist Party members called for no relocation, and a shorter working week with no loss of pay.

Usdaw has committed to a campaign to ban zero-hour contracts in favour of minimum 16-hour contracts, except for those who specifically request less. Socialist Party members pressed the importance of not just committing in words but seriously preparing a campaign.

I spoke in support of reintroducing the original, socialist ‘Clause IV’ into Labour’s constitution, which the leadership opposed and defeated. But the ADM did pass a maximum income policy, on a card vote, after the leadership opposed it.

A number of important motions – including supporting the Refugee Rights Campaign – have yet to be decided at the time of writing.

It’s apparent Socialist Party member Amy Murphy’s election as next Usdaw president has emboldened the left in the union. Iain Dalton of the Socialist Party has also been elected chair of Usdaw’s Broad Left, which continues to grow.

At the time of writing, we have sold over 70 copies of the Socialist. Full report to follow – but it’s clear support for socialist ideas is rising in Britain’s fifth-largest union.

Activist 75: 2018 ADM

ADM 2018 special – includes article by President-elect Amy Murphy, the Activist guide to ADM and on the banning of the Socialist newspaper NUJ-accredited reporter from ADM