Update: Tesco accuse unions of 'campaign of myths and misinformation'

Update 5.25pm: Tesco Ireland has responded to union allegations that the company was trying to force long-term workers out and branding the allegations "a campaign of myths and misinformation".

Responding to the union claims Tesco have released a statement this afternoon saying: "We operate in an intensely competitive market against non-unionised retailers who Mandate does not attack. We are further disappointed that Mandate continues to engage in a campaign of myths and misinformation to misguide our colleagues and damage our business impacting everyone who works for Tesco.

"Tesco also refutes claims by Mandate that 900 jobs have been lost. In the course of discussions in the WRC, we opened a generous voluntary redundancy scheme offering 5 weeks per year of service uncapped for anyone who didn’t want to change, with average payouts of €105,000."

However, the company went on to suggest that Trade Union leaders "are urging union workers to shop in non-unionised stores".

Tesco Ireland said it "is shocked at the stance taken by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on this company's dispute with Mandate.

"Tesco Ireland is the only food retailer to recognise Trade Unions in all of its stores and we are shocked that Trade Union leaders are urging union workers to shop in non-unionised stores."

"We believe the ICTU should use its authority to encourage Mandate to abide by the outcomes of the Labour Court and accept the Recommendation which the Union themselves had sought. That recommendation remains as the only solution to this issue."

Mary, who has worked at Tesco for over 20 years says long-standing workers have been badly treated.

She told Newstalk: "We've suffered and endured intimidation and bullying, not only ourselves - the two pre-1996s that's left - but the other staff as well. And it's still going on to this day.

"All we're asking for is to be left alone and all we're asking for is for everybody to support this strike."

Earlier: Unions allege Tesco is attacking jobs and trying to force long-term workers out of the company.

Staff are to begin a strike on Valentine’s Day in a dispute over changes to pre-1996 contracts.

Tesco Ireland are calling on the unions to accept a Labour Court ruling and say stores will remain open next week despite the strike.

A Tesco worker, who has worked in the store in Louth for more than 20 years, told Newstalk it has been a tough week asking her colleagues to support long term staff in their action.

“For the last week and a half it has been the most horrendous work environment to work in. We’ve had people being pulled in to little meetings and told ‘you don’t really want to vote for those two, do you?’

“Fortunately we have the support of our fellow colleagues.”

The company, meanwhile, has called on Mandate to accept the Labour Court Recommendation and re-think its plan to “damage the company with a strike”.

In a statement it said: “Tesco Ireland calls on Mandate to accept the Labour Court Recommendation and re-think its plan to damage the company with a strike. The call comes as the sixth store out of the small number balloted has rejected strike.

"Late last night, Tesco Santry voted overwhelmingly to reject the Mandate plan. We welcome the decision of these colleagues in Cork, Dublin, Louth, Waterford and Wicklow to reject Mandate’s strategy for strike and instead to protect the business and the jobs it supports.

"In a company of 14,500 staff, balloting less than one sixth of stores and being rejected by six of those requires Mandate to re-think its strike. Given the small number of stores being balloted and the small numbers of colleagues actually participating in the ballot, there is an urgent need for a re-assessment by Mandate. Less than half of colleagues in some stores balloted actually voted in favour of action.

"It is most unusual that Mandate is refusing to accept the Labour Court’s Recommendation on flexibility changes to pre-1996 terms and conditions, a Recommendation which they themselves had sought. The Recommendation protects colleagues’ rate of pay with 90 per cent actually getting a pay rate increase under the Labour Court proposals."

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