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Tesco - every two billion helps
TESCO, WITH its huge hypermarkets and many smaller neighbourhood shops across Britain, is the first British retailer to notch up annual profits of over £2 billion (£2.03 billion to be precise). That's £250,000 every hour!
Tesco is a capitalist retail giant. Out of every £8 spent in Britain's shops, Tesco is said to account for £1. It has also been expanding abroad rapidly. Apart from the directors and shareholders, however, who's gained from these massive profits?
200,000 plus Tesco workers in Britain would rather work for a profitable firm than for a debt-ridden company like MG Rover. However, throughout Tesco's rise in the supermarket pecking order, workers have had to put up with some poor pay deals, many of them below-inflation. Staff allege many instances of bullying management.
Tesco's South African suppliers pay "poverty wages", claims the ActionAid charity. Low-wage female seasonal workers growing fruit on Tesco-accredited farms in South Africa have to live in "dreadful conditions" and cannot afford to feed their families.
Just 30 companies account for a third of the world's processed foods. And between them, the world's top food retailers control 80% of food production and distribution.
This gives capitalist retail outlets like Tesco power, using their size to muscle smaller shops out of business through "predatory pricing" policies. That's where unprofitably low prices are kept up just long enough to weaken the opposition.
Farmers that supply Tesco's food haven't done so well. Many small farmers say the Tescos of the world are ruining them. And Tesco's market position is so strong that when the Dairy Crest food group said Tesco wasn't renewing its contract for fresh milk, its share price plummeted.
This giant's profits come from low wages and super-exploitation and their activities are destroying local shops and communities. Capitalism cannot control them - surely it's a prime target for democratic public ownership.
In The Socialist 14 April 2005: