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Tesco shortage warning as workers strike

Written by: Emma Lunn
Union Unite has warned that Tesco shoppers in many parts of the UK face empty shelves in the run-up to Christmas as workers strike in a dispute about pay.

Unite says the workers, who include warehouse and HGV drivers based at Tesco’s depots in Antrim, Belfast, Didcot and Doncaster, have been offered a below-inflation pay rise.

It says Tesco has offered the workers just a 4% pay increase, which is well below the current retail price index (RPI) inflation rate of 6%.

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “Our members have gone above and beyond the call of duty to keep Tesco’s shelves filled throughout the pandemic. At the very least the UK’s largest and wealthiest retailer should be making our members a decent pay offer.

“Unite always prioritises the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and it will be giving its full and total support to our members at Tesco until this dispute is resolved.”

The Didcot and Doncaster sites will see an initial 48-hours stoppage beginning at 06:00 on Thursday 16 December. This will be followed by a further five-day pre-Christmas stoppage beginning on Monday 20 December.

There will be a further a 48-hour stoppage beginning on Thursday 30 December and a three-day stoppage beginning on 5 January 2022 at Doncaster and Didcot.

Unite members at the Antrim and Belfast Tesco distribution centres will begin an all-out continuous strike from 07:00 on Thursday 16 December.

Unite says the workforce are particularly angry that Tesco is trying to force them into a real terms pay cut, due to the company’s incredible profitability, with the supermarket giant predicting an operating profit of £2.6bn for the current financial year.

Unite is also balloting its members for strike action at Tesco’s distribution centre in Livingston. The ballot closes on Monday 6 December. If workers vote for industrial action they will be likely to join the strike action before Christmas.

Adrian Jones, Unite national officer, said: “Unite is taking strike action as a last resort having exhausted all other options. Even at this late stage Tesco could still avoid severe disruption in its stores by returning to the negotiating table and making a greatly improved offer.”

A Tesco spokesperson said: “Our distribution colleagues have worked tirelessly through the pandemic in order to keep products moving for customers. The pay offer we have made is a fair recognition of this, and is one of the highest awards made within our distribution business in the last 25 years, building on our highly competitive pay and rewards package.  

“We welcome the decision by our colleagues at the sites who have voted against industrial action. We are disappointed that some have voted to proceed, and we have contingency plans in place to help mitigate any impacts. We have worked hard to deliver Christmas for our customers and are confident we will be able to fulfil our plans.”

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