Lorry drivers and warehouse workers at four Tesco distribution centres have rejected a below inflation pay offer. If members vote for strike action, Tesco’s shelves will quickly become empty this winter, potentially affecting the Christmas period, Unite, the UK’s leading union, has warned.
Following a consultative ballot, workers overwhelmingly rejected Tesco’s ‘full and final pay offer’ of a 2.5 per cent pay increase. This is a substantial real terms pay cut with the RPI inflation rate currently running at 4.8 per cent.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Tesco’s staff have kept working throughout the pandemic and that alone surely means they deserve a decent pay rise. Instead, they are being offered what is, in effect, a pay cut.
“Tesco’s shareholders will be well rewarded out of Tesco’s three billion pound profits. Unite is preparing for industrial action now to make sure the workers get their share as well,” she added.
The distribution centres that have rejected the pay offer are Belfast, Didcot, Doncaster and Thurrock and more than 3,500 Tesco workers are part of the dispute.
Tesco’s latest accounts reveal that it made a profit of £3.17 billion last year.
During negotiations, Tesco has made it clear that it does not believe it needs to substantially raise the wages of lorry drivers. Despite well-publicised driver shortages, the supermarket claims it has a waiting list of 400 drivers keen to work for the company.
Whilst Tesco has said that the offer is its best and final offer the negotiation procedures include the option to involve external mediation. Whilst the union will of course honour agreed procedures, Unite will not accept any attempt to delay or artificially extend these talks and if an acceptable offer is not made, a full industrial action ballot will quickly follow.
Unite national officer Adrian Jones said, “The arrogance and disdain for its workforce currently being displayed by Tesco’s management is shocking; they have either forgotten, don’t know or don’t care that the company’s success is due to the hard work and diligence of its workers.
“If full industrial action resulting in empty shelves does follow, then consumers should understand that this dispute is entirely of Tesco’s own making.”
By Barckley Sumner