Tesco confident it can ‘deliver Christmas’ despite industrial action by unions

Unions have warned supermarket giant Tesco that it faces disruption at its stores as workers take industrial action at distribution centres just ahead of Christmas.

But the retailer said it was confident it could keep the shelves fully stocked and “fulfil our plans” despite the action by the Unite and Usdaw unions.

Usdaw said the dispute involves 5,000 members at several warehouses across the country who will take industrial action after rejecting a 4% annual pay rise.

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Its announcement on Monday evening follows that of fellow union Unite, which also said warehouse workers and would stage a series of strikes in the coming weeks over the pay offer.

The retailer said it was confident it could keep the shelves fully stocked and “fulfil our plans” despite the action by the Unite and Usdaw unions.

Usdaw said its members had voted to take action at sites in Daventry, Goole, Hinckley, Lichfield, Livingston, Magor in south Wales, Peterborough and Southampton.

Joanne McGuinness, of Usdaw, said: “Our members have sent a clear message, with this high turnout and strong support for industrial action. We hope that the company is listening and that they will return to the negotiating table with a better deal that is acceptable to our members.

“Retail distribution workers are key workers who delivered essential services throughout the pandemic, which in turn delivered a 16.5% increase in profit to Tesco for the first half of the year. These workers deserve a decent pay rise as their reward for what they have done and continue to do day in day out; couple that with the rising cost of living and inflation currently running at 6%, the company needs to do better.

“Industrial action and possible stock shortages in stores in the week before Christmas can be avoided. It needs the company to engage positively in talks with Usdaw and we stand ready to reopen negotiations.”

The union said a stoppage would start on December 20 and end on Christmas Eve.

Meanwhile, Unite said more than 1,000 of its members at depots in Antrim, Belfast, Didcot and Doncaster will take industrial action after rejecting the same pay deal.

The union said the 4% pay rise was “well below” the current retail price index (RPI) inflation rate of 6%. The current consumer prices index (CPI) is 4.2%.

Workers at the Didcot and Doncaster sites will strike for 48 hours from 6am on December 16, followed by a further five-day stoppage from December 20.

More strikes will be held at the two sites after Christmas.

Unite members at the Antrim and Belfast Tesco distribution centres will launch an all-out, continuous strike from 7am on December 16.

Late on Monday, the union also announced members at Tesco’s distribution centre in Livingston, Scotland, will walk out on December 20, and will not return before Christmas.

Unite national officer Adrian Jones 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.

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“We have worked hard to deliver Christmas for our customers and are confident we will be able to fulfil our plans.”