Tesco staff hit picket lines as strike begins at busy Cork outlet

ONE of Cork’s busiest Tesco outlets will be unable to open from this morning on as staff engage in all-out strike action.

The 80 members of Mandate trade union who work at Tesco Douglas will mount pickets at the store from 8am.

They are protesting at plans to make staff who started working there before 1996 forgo a number of terms and conditions accrued during their service when they move to new premises on May 1.

The company has told those staff it will compulsorily buy out the favourable terms leaving the staff on contracts which are more flexible to its needs. Those staff who do not agree to the change will be made redundant when the new store opens.

Mandate claims the National Replacement Store Agreement which it has agreed with Tesco guarantees staff their terms and conditions when a replacement store is built on-site.

Despite the proximity of disruptive action, there has been little contact between the union and company in the run-up to today’s strike. Mandate said the only communication from the company in recent days was through the Labour Relations Commission (LRC). The union said management reiterated its position to the LRC that it would only be willing to engage in discussions on the terms and conditions if the affected workers transferred to the new store first. Mandate insists the matter must be resolved before workers transfer.

Today’s action will continue at the existing Douglas store until Friday morning when it will transfer to the entrance to the new store on what should be its opening day.

The union fears the company is intending to spread cutbacks outlined in Douglas to all its stores nationwide. It claims to have received a letter from Tesco head office detailing that intention and giving a timescale of a few weeks.

Tesco said the union’s claims are “wrong” but has not outlined which element is untrue.

Last night a Tesco spokesman said the company regretted any inconvenience caused to customers as a result of the dispute in Douglas.

“We also regret that this action, which is unnecessary, is happening when the matter has been referred by Tesco to the LRC in line with agreed procedures. Tesco Ireland has been planning to open a new store in Douglas which will create 100 new jobs, bringing the total employed in the store to 189 people. As part of this process all staff from our existing store would move to the new store.

“We regret that a small number of existing members of staff have failed to reach agreed terms on the move to the new store. The issue relates to historical ‘guaranteed’ overtime levels which are no longer appropriate in the new store. Tesco has, from the outset, offered generous compensation terms to buy out the differences for those affected. There is no impact on existing basic hours or basic rate of pay for these members of staff. The company has offered to pay the compensation in advance whilst the matter proceeds through the third party process. Staff members who do not have this historical overtime have all been facilitated in the new store on the basis of their previous working patterns and basic rates of pay. Tesco does not consider itself in breach of any agreement with Mandate and has called on the union not to proceed with this action and allow the third-party process take it’s course.”


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