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From The Socialist newspaper, 21 January 2015

Tesco: every little cut helps

Tesco: every little cut helps

  (Click to enlarge)

A Tesco worker

In a small store such as ours, managers often end up working side by side with ordinary staff, all doing the same job. It's called "rumble", and can be a fun activity, joking and chatting.

However, on a recent Friday there was a marked change. A feeling more like a friend had died, or the end of an era. With talks of closing 43 "unprofitable" stores, pay freezes and drastic changes to the pension schemes, the feeling was justified.

Managers and union reps are as much in the dark as we are, having got the news off BBC and papers like the Sun. The lack of info being fed to the shop floor is crippling colleagues' morale. Managers are even pointing out that these pressures are coming from their superiors' mistakes. They are being forced to make changes to react.

Lately, to cut costs, most team leader roles have been absorbed into management. This places severe strain on those wanting to climb the ladder to earn a living wage. And this is a minor issue compared to what will face us in the months ahead.


Tesco was once seen as the better of the big four supermarkets to work for. This seems set to change rather rapidly.

Our staff briefing stated "investment in payroll will be flat." Effectively, that means job cuts or no one getting a pay rise next year. Not even the lower-than-inflation rises I have suffered my entire working life. They aren't even so bold as to tell us to our faces.

We are told there will be new "working hour flexibility." There have been two attempts to rejig the hours under the name "right hours, right place". This consists of management asking what permanent hours you can drop, and what "flexi-time" you can add to your contract. In "flexi-time", you can be called into work and can only decline with a 'suitable' reason. Pretty much a zero-hour contract, but with a few core hours.

Add all this to Tesco's use of workfare slave labour, and it's clear that the higher ranks of have nothing but feelings of bitter contempt for workers. They drool over their enormous salaries and pension pots, while financial woes continue to plague the company.

These include the last chief exec and financial director cooking the books and huge failures in overseas markets. And it's us, the workers, who have to pay the price.

Prize pets

And this is supposed to be an organised workplace! So where's the resistance? Our union, Usdaw, is in "partnership" with management. Its leaders think they can be the prized pets of the elite, and also the voice of the workers. It claims to be a "campaigning union" - but only for the discredited Labour Party.

Everyone working inside Tesco, from security guards and cleaners to the duty managers, knows the coming months will be either be a period of struggle or of being trampled on.

Given the state of Usdaw at the moment, I'm practising my doormat impression. But with a fighting lead, we can still pull the mat out from beneath their feet.

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In The Socialist 21 January 2015:

Socialist Party news and analysis

Take the wealth off the super-rich!

Labour Party won't protect our NHS

Youth unemployment: anxiety and anger

Oil price crashes as world economy slows

Care home scandal: When profit comes first...

Them & Us

International socialist news

Greece: Syriza victory would raise workers' hopes

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

Opposing establishment parties is not 'wasted vote'

Don't just boo - help fund the fightback!

Socialist Party workplace news

Striking NHS workers say: 'Give us pay we can live on'

Safeguarding PCS against vicious Tory attacks

Unison activists discuss reclaiming the union

UCU: Clear strategy needed to reignite pensions action

Barbour workers accept improved offer

Essex FBU fight lockout

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Cardiff happy to get the blues

Hackney women give TUSC their blessing

5,000 residents force council debate on pool closure

Readers' comments

Tesco: every little cut helps

Halt the cutbacks in hearing aid provision

Privatisation worsens NHS crisis

TTIP it into the Atlantic

Why I joined the Socialist Party


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