Tesco: Pre-Christmas strikes planned by 6,500 depot staff

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Tesco is facing potential disruption ahead of the key Christmas period at more than half of its 22 UK distribution centres, unless an agreement is reached with its staff.

The union Usdaw said 5,000 of its members had rejected a proposed 4% annual pay rise.

They will join Unite union members in taking industrial action at a total of 14 of the supermarket chain's distribution centres.

Tesco said the pay offer was fair.

A spokeswoman from the supermarket said it would mitigate any disruption caused by industrial action in the run up to Christmas.

The Usdaw action would affect nine Tesco distribution sites. But it follows a warning from 1,200 Tesco staff represented by the Unite union who said they would also take industrial action at five distribution centres before Christmas.

Unite said the 4% pay rise amounted to a "real terms pay cut" due to inflation. The cost of living rose by 4.2% in October, its highest rate in almost 10 years.

Tesco is the UK's largest supermarket with a consistent share of over 25% of the market.

The workers represented by Unite, including warehouse staff and HGV drivers, are based at sites in Antrim, Belfast, Didcot and Doncaster.

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, national officer of Usdaw, said members had "sent a clear message".

"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".

"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." she said.

On Sunday, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham 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."

She warned the strikes could lead to shortages of some goods, at a time when supermarkets are already struggling to source what they need amid supply chain issues.

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

Unite said the pay rise offered by the firm was "well below" the current retail price index rate, another measurement of inflation, which is at 6%.

It is also balloting its members for pre-Christmas strike action at Tesco's distribution centre in Livingston. The ballot closes on Monday.

A Tesco spokeswoman said that customers could be confident it would fulfil it plans over the Christmas period.

"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," she said.

The spokeswoman added that the pay offer is one of the highest made within Tesco's distribution business in the last 25 years.

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