Usdaw conference

Stop supermarket bosses making us pay for their mistakes

Simon Haytack/Creative Commons

Simon Haytack/Creative Commons   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

On the eve of shop workers’ union Usdaw’s 2016 annual delegate meeting (ADM), Tesco CEO Dave Lewis, who received £4.1 million in his first six months as boss in 2015, was grilled by Channel 4 News for cutting workers’ premiums and attacking pensions.

He tried to defend the cuts by calling them “an equalisation and a harmonisation” of terms and conditions, but was forced to admit that many workers would be worse off.

He was also reminded that Tesco workers in Ireland were prepared to take strike action over pay cuts. That preparedness has become reality as Mandate trade union members working for Tesco in Ireland voted emphatically 99% in favour of industrial action after a turnout of 85%.

Tesco, like in the UK, is the largest private sector employer in Ireland with 14,500 staff in 149 stores. Management at the company are threatening to cut wages for staff employed before 1996 by up to 35% on 16 May 2016.

In the UK, many of Tesco’s 310,000 workers will have overtime, weekend and night-shift bonuses cut as part of new contracts. Similar attacks on premiums in exchange for basic pay increases have also taken place in Coop and Morrisons.

But Usdaw, a third of whose members are in Tesco and who are committed to fighting for a living wage, have been characteristically quiet and lacking in fight over the issue.

A vote on pay deals should be restored to Tesco workers and industrial action discussed by the union as has been done at mass meetings in Ireland, so that the strength of the 160,000 Usdaw members in Tesco is used to fight against low pay and attacks on conditions.

Propositions at the ADM on premium payments and a vote on pay review speak to members’ frustration with recent pay reviews, especially in Tesco where members don’t get to vote on this.

Other propositions on the trade union bill, company taxation, rail fares and union reps all deserve support.

As last year, the question of supporting the TUC demand for a £10 an hour minimum wage is on the agenda, after it was withdrawn last year. Given the Usdaw delegation voted to support this demand at the TUC congress in 2014, and Jeremy Corbyn’s public support for such a call, it would be a travesty if Usdaw set itself against this demand.

Socialist Party members in Usdaw

Usdaw Activist (Socialist Party members in Usdaw) fringe meeting: Boosting profits at our expense – Fight to Defend Premium Payments 6pm, 24 April at the Britannia Room, Ruskin Hotel, Albert Rd, Blackpool, FY1 4PW

  • Speakers: Amy Murphy, Usdaw EC and Iain Dalton, Leeds PT branch (Both speaking in a personal capacity)