F+F owner Tesco could face empty Christmas shelves in pay dispute
Empty clothes rails, beauty and food shelves at Tesco could be a possibility if a looming strike at the supermarket giant’s warehouses can’t be averted.
More than 1,000 warehouse staff and HGV drivers at four of the retailer’s distribution centres have voted to strike from December 16, leaving Tescos with the prospect of curtailed deliveries over the crucial Christmas period.
The strikes – in Didcot and Doncaster in England, and Antrim and Belfast in Northern Ireland – would mean “Tesco shoppers in many parts of the UK face empty shelves in the run-up to Christmas”, warned the trade union Unite.
A further nine warehouses could also be affected, with strike action a possibility at Tesco’s biggest delivery depot in Livingston, West Lothian.
Tesco has offered workers a 4% pay increase, up from a previous 2.5% proposal, but Unite said this amounted to a real terms pay cut, given that the retail price index rate of inflation stands at 6%.
Tesco has around 20 distribution centres in the UK and Unite has said the strikes will affect the south and north of England plus Northern Ireland. However, the company said it was taking steps to limit the damage from the strikes and that it was “confident” it would be able to manage.
A Tesco spokesman told The Guardian newspaper: “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.”
Unite’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, also 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.”
Tesco rival Morrisons averted a warehouse strike last week after a 5% pay rise was accepted.
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