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Solidarity with Tesco Ireland Valentine’s Day strike

February 8, 2017 Leave a comment
Poster produced by the Activist for use in solidarity selfies with the Tesco workers strike in Ireland

Poster produced by the Activist for use in solidarity selfies with the Tesco workers strike in Ireland

Up to 15 Tesco stores in Ireland will face strike action on Valentine’s Day 14 February after members of the trade union Mandate, which represents more than 10,000 workers at the company, voted 78% in favour of a walkout over contract changes.

Scott Jones, Usdaw East London Retail branch chair (personal capacity)

The changes Tesco Ireland are attempting to force through without agreement affect approximately 250 workers employed before 1996. The new contracts would result in some workers experiencing reduced incomes of up to 15% along with increased ‘flexibility’.

Tesco began their attack on pre-1996 staff more than one year ago when they intimidated and bullied more than 900 workers out of their jobs through a redundancy programme and strike action was narrowly avoided then.

The remaining 250 workers want to stay in the company on the contracts they have but the company is insisting they accept reduced terms and conditions.

This followed moves at Tesco in the UK to drive down terms and conditions last year when hundreds of staff lost out as a result of the pay deal which caused pay cuts in overtime, weekend and night premiums. Meanwhile Tesco CEO Dave Lewis received £4.1 million in his first six months as boss in 2015 and Tesco reported that it had its best sales growth at the end of last year’s quarter for over five years. This profit was further boosted by the Christmas sales meaning that Tesco is on course to deliver a profit of “at least” £1.2 billion for 2016-17.

As one Tesco worker said then: “I’d rather have a living wage than support the lifestyles of shareholders.”

We support Tesco workers in Ireland and their trade union Mandate for taking this action against Tesco’s attempt to implement increasingly low-paid, part-time precarious work in its stores. And we call on Usdaw, the shop workers’ union in Britain, to raise solidarity and discuss industrial action so that the strength of the 160,000 Usdaw members in Tesco is used to fight against low pay and attacks on conditions.

We would encourage all Usdaw reps and other labour movement activists who wish to support the strike to send solidarity messages to the workers via their website (https://tescoworkers.com/contact-us/) and also send copies to usdawactivist@gmail.com. We have produced a poster (see image above) that can be printed out to take ‘solidarity selfies’ and photos with to be shared on social media, tag @MandateTU on Twitter

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Activist 66

February 1, 2017 Leave a comment

Includes interview on the North West Executive Council by-election, Tesco buyout of Booker and Weetabix strike ballot.

Resist Sunday Trading De-regulation

Amongst the many attacks on workers including in the Tory government’s emergency budget is one that will anger many retail workers, further de-regulation of Sunday trading legislation. At present, shops above 3,000 sq ft can only open for six hours on a Sunday.

There is huge opposition to these proposals amongst retail workers, for many Sundays are the only day they know they’ll have an evening off or a later start, especially given the further ‘flexibility’ of contracts supermarkets are now demanding.

In 2012, when the government temporarily suspended Sunday trading laws for the Olympics, Usdaw surveyed over 20,000 members with 77% declaring their opposition to de-regulation and only 12% supporting it. Moreover, under existing laws which give workers an opt-out from Sunday working, many workers are pressured into doing so.

Chancellor George Osborne and others, point to a £20.3bn boost they predict this would give the economy over the next 20 years, although during the Olympic de-regulation retail sales actually fell 0.4% year-on-year. They also point to opening a level playing field for physical retailers with online shops. Yet many of the major stores affected have online outlets now and the major effect of extending supermarket openings on Sundays, would be the further cannibalisation of smaller & independent retailers.

Osborne proposes to devolve the powers over opening hours to elected mayors and local authorities, is clearly a move to attempt to shield the Tories from blame for this, but it is also can be seen as a step towards regional pay and conditions which the government has wished to promote for some time. Additionally if Sunday becomes a normal working day, there could be attempts to remove what remains of Sunday premium payments.

Given this, it is welcome to see Usdaw General Secretary, John Hannett’s comments that the union “…will vigorously campaign against such a proposal…” However, fine words need to be turned into action. As well as encouraging campaigning in stores and high streets against this proposal, Usdaw must call a national demonstration when legislation is debated in parliament, mobilising members and supporters across the country as part of a campaign to build for strike action if necessary.

Activist 57

Includes articles on ADM 2015, Dunnes Stores Dispute, People’s Assembly demonstration, Labour leadership election, Clerys’ lockout and mailbag

Activist 44

Includes articles on working at Primark, Doncaster ex-Tesco drivers protest, Amazon strike in Germany, Tesco pay deal, the new AO’s, the general strike and more

Usdaw and the General Strike

March 24, 2013 2 comments
A month from now the TUC general council will meet with plans for a 24 hour general strike high on the agenda. At last year’s TUC congress in Brighton a majority backed the Prison Officer’s Association who demanded that the TUC consider the practicalities of a general strike.
But plans for such action have yet to materialise mainly because of opposition from some unions to strike action and the specific demand of a general strike. These include my own union, Usdaw, the shop workers union.
Whereas a large proportion of the trade union movement in Britain, led by militant unions such as the RMT and PCS, believe the fightback against austerity should now move onto the industrial plane with organised strike action being called, some other unions have raised objections or declared outright opposition. Along with Usdaw, Prospect and Community are two others who are dragging their heels.
They put forward two main reasons against strike action. Firstly that strike action would prove a distraction or give the government a stick with which to beat the unions with. Well quite frankly, this allegation can be countered by simply saying the government are already beating us and its hurting very much! The second excuse they use is that their members would not be willing to take general strike action. As a shop steward and somebody who works alongside members every day unlike John Hannett, the general secretary of Usdaw, I can confirm there is immense willingness to take strike action as a means of stopping austerity and fighting back against employers.
Usdaw members looked in envy at public sector workers in November 2011 when they took part in one of the largest strikes in British history. The strike was mainly in defence of pensions, whilst in contrast Usdaw meekly accepted a worsening pension deal from Tesco for its workers without even consulting their members, all we had was a letter through the door telling us that the union backs the change which means workers work for longer and get less at the end.
I am frequently asked if we will take strike action in my workplace and comments like “I think we should all just go on strike”, are not uncommon either. It is true that the confidence of the working class isn’t at its highest and people are fearing for their jobs but when the demand for a 24 hour general strike is explained to members and the need for such action to defend workers against government and employer attacks then members are willing to forfeit a days pay as if things continue they will lose a lot more in the long term.
Tesco drivers in Doncaster who went on strike last year after their contracts were transferred to Eddie Stobart, who offered them a stark choice between redundancy or taking new jobs with terms and conditions, showed the way as they went on an all out strike and won improved redundancy terms. The lesson is that action works, if you try you might win concessions, if you don’t then you automatically lose. We need to follow those drivers and our brothers and sisters in the PCS and teaching unions who are taking strike action to fight back against austerity and defend services and jobs such as Tesco distribution centres which are under threat of closure.
Our unions should be leading the fightback against attacks on working class people and raising the conciousness of their members in how and why to change society, I hope in April at the TUC general council meeting that the RMT and their allies who  have declared that a general strike call is a “golden opportunity to reach out to working people”, win the argument and that Usdaw and other strike nay sayers listen to their members and join the fightback in earnest!

Doncaster drivers give Tesco & Stobarts a bloody nose and force a climbdown

December 14, 2012 1 comment
Tesco Drivers on Strike

Tesco Drivers on Strike

Taken from website of the National Shop Stewards Network. We will publish analysis of what this climbdown by Tesco/Stobarts means for USDAW members in Tesco in the near future

Doncaster ex-Tesco drivers, outsourced to and then sacked by Eddie Stobarts, today voted by 150-19 to accept an improved redundancy offer and end their strike.

This package, whilst still only £650 for each years service, was 50% better than that drivers had been notified of only a day earlier in their redundancy letters.

This climbdown by Stobarts/Tescos was forced on them by the most effective picketing that I have seen for years, which for 50 hours, round the clock, had lorries parked up unable to move, as many as 120 wagons at one point.

Such was the strikers’ sense of empowerment that yesterday one picket said “I don’t want this settling, I want to be doing this next week, Christmas week, and see how they (the bosses) like that.”

Unite national officer Adrian Jones said in the strike meeting that the drivers’ action had been “an inspiration”. He said that in the talks, Stobarts, an anti-union firm, had admitted that this was the first time they had ever been “hurt” by industrial action.

The union branch committee reluctantly recommended acceptance of the deal. They thought it was the best that could be got under the circumstances.  Even those that voted against did so more as a gesture of defiance than challenging the shop stewards who have shown real leadership.

This is because whilst the talks were going on yesterday, the pendulum swung away from the strikers on the picket line. Up to then, the police had been unusually accomodating, allowing pickets to stop lorries and talk to drivers for 5, 10, sometimes even 20 minutes or more, causing even more tail-backs. But around midday, more senior officers demanded a more robust attitude to limiting the picket numbers and together with Stobart and Tesco managers, more or less forced drivers through. This meant that by mid-afternoon the back-log of waggons had more or less been cleared.

So, you can’t call 183 redundancies and the redundancy package a victory, but the mood of the drivers at the mass meeting was one of pride that they had stood up to the biggest private sector employer in the country (Tesco) and the most notorious anti-union haulier (Stobarts), and given them both a bloody nose.

None of the drivers involved will ever forget the experience of the last three days and their action leaves an inspiring example that other drivers and workers will follow in the near future.