Tesco staff threaten 'indefinite strike' action in contract row
Employees from three Tesco stores across Dublin warned of an "indefinite strike" as they took to the picket line.
Pickets formed outside branches in Ballyfermot, Finglas and Baggot Street yesterday - staff also picketed another five stores outside of Dublin.
The dispute between management and trade union Mandate centres on a company plan to move long-serving staff - workers who were hired before 1996 - onto a lower-paid contract.
The largest strike was in Finglas, north Dublin, with more than 180 staff taking part according to a Mandate Trade Union spokesperson.
Brian Barrett (47), who grew up in Finglas, has worked in the Finglas branch for 28 years. Mr Barrett will be getting married next month to his partner, who also works in Tesco.
"We're getting married on March 25, the two of us will be really hit if this escalates, but we're willing to bite the bullet now at this stage. If we have to get married on the picket, we'll do it," he said.
Colleague Gerard Mahady (52), also from Finglas, has worked there for 30 years with his wife, who has been employed there for 26 years.
"We were told that our contracts are going to be ripped up, and we're being offered new ones. There will be a loss of income for me personally of 15pc," he said.
"I wouldn't be able to afford my mortgage and bills. I don't know how to make ends meet. They employ 14,500 people - how are 200 people affecting them? Just leave us alone, we've done nothing wrong and we shouldn't be treated like this."
He added that most of his peers in work earn €14.30 an hour. Mandate Trade Union is currently looking for clarification regarding a Labour Court recommendation.
"It looks like an escalation of the dispute is where we're heading, there doesn't seem to be any desire by Tesco to sit down and engage. They don't want to seek clarification from the Labour Court," said union representative Brendan O'Hanlon.
Another eight stores are set to join them this Friday, and five of them are in Dublin.
Tesco released a statement describing the strike as "unnecessary" and "unjustified".
"Tesco and our colleagues remain shocked that Mandate is still going ahead with this strike and that the union has advised customers to shop in non-unionised competitor stores," it said.
"Despite the actions of Mandate, the company has not made any changes to the pre-1996 terms and conditions of the 250 workers at the centre of the dispute."
Cllr Andrew Keegan, attending the strike, said: "If you think about the profits a company like Tesco makes, it could easily pay a decent wage to staff. It's a race to the bottom."