Tesco workers in Cork approve industrial action

Workers at a Tesco store in Cork have voted overwhelmingly to take industrial action in a row regarding terms and conditions.

The dispute centres on a plan by the British retailer to force new terms and conditions on a small number of workers who are moving to a new store on the same site in the suburb of Douglas.

Employees have been told they will be made redundant if they do not sign up to the new terms.

Staff have responded by voting in favour of industrial action.

News of the stand-off comes on the same day that Tesco reported record annual pre-tax profits of £3.13bn (€3.5bn) an 8.8% increase on the previous year.

Tesco says its overall Irish operation has been hit by an increase in cross-border grocery shopping.

Mandate’s divisional organiser in Cork, Lorraine O’Brien said: "This was a very difficult decision for Tesco workers to make. Nobody wants to go on strike, especially in the current economic climate and these workers are no different.

"However, when faced with a threat, not only to the maintenance of their terms and conditions, but also to their standards of living in order that the company continue to pursue ridiculous profit margins, it’s clear that the workers feel this is a fight worth fighting.

"Tesco has said that the company is not willing to accept the transfer of staff members from the old store who have pre-1996 contracts. Instead, the company has offered staff members a choice of either a compulsory buyout of their terms and conditions or alternatively, the worker will be dismissed by means of redundancy.

"We’re talking about loyal workers in Tesco who have been employed in the company for approximately 30 years, including the period of time under the Quinnsworth brand."

Mandate said it is concerned that should Tesco proceed with these cuts in terms and conditions, the company may begin a process whereby all negotiated contracts and agreements with the union countrywide would be ignored when it becomes appropriate for the company.

This could have serious implications for the 12,000 workers in Tesco in the Republic of Ireland.

"If Tesco believe they can ignore agreements with the union at this point in time, then we have absolutely no certainty for other staff members going forward," said O'Brien.

"We need to act swiftly to ensure that the terms and conditions of all workers in Tesco are protected."

Mandate say that the union is available for discussions with the company in order to resolve the dispute, but unless existing agreements are honoured, it is almost certain that a strike will now take place.

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