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.
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.