Thousands of Tesco warehouse workers to strike in run-up to Christmas

Tesco Dagenham warehouse workers strike in 2018 Photo: Richard Groves

Tesco Dagenham warehouse workers strike in 2018 Photo: Richard Groves   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Scott Jones, Socialist Party member in Usdaw

Supermarket giant Tesco is set to be hit by a series of strikes at its distribution centres in the run-up to Christmas.

Unions representing Tesco warehouse workers and HGV drivers, Usdaw and Unite, have announced industrial action in three disputes, all over pay.

In reality, Tesco is trying to force workers into a real-terms pay cut, despite Tesco predicting an operating profit of £2.6 billion for the current financial year and praising its staff as ‘key workers’ during the pandemic. These workers helped keep the country fed, resulting in increased profits for the bosses – a 16.5% increase in the first half of the year. Now Tesco risks empty shelves during the busy Christmas period.

The workers should take confidence from Morrisons where, after the threat of a walkout, over 1,100 warehouse workers have won improved pay. Tesco warehouse workers have also walked out before, at Dagenham in 2018, when 80% of Tesco stores in Greater London were affected, showing the power of the workforce. Strikes at a combined 12 sites across the UK would create shockwaves.

Usdaw’s two disputes involve over 5,000 members at nine Tesco distribution centres in Daventry Clothing, Goole, Hinckley, Lichfield, Livingston, Magor (both trunk and main sites), Peterborough and Southampton. Members rejected a 4% annual pay increase and voted 73% and 84% in favour of action. Unite members at depots in Antrim, Belfast, Didcot and Doncaster will strike after also rejecting 4%.

Usdaw members will strike at the nine sites starting on Monday 20 December and concluding on Christmas Eve, while Unite members at the Didcot and Doncaster sites will see an initial 48-hour stoppage beginning on 16 December, followed by a further five-day pre-Christmas stoppage beginning on Monday 20 December.

There will be a further 48-hour stoppage beginning on Thursday 30 December and a three-day stoppage beginning on 5 January at Doncaster and Didcot.

Unite members at the Antrim and Belfast Tesco distribution centres will begin an all-out continuous strike on 16 December.

The Socialist Party sends solidarity to the workers. One of our members and Usdaw rep Max McGee is appealing his sacking by Tesco (for ‘exaggerating’ an injury in his warehouse), which took place while Usdaw was starting the indicative ballot for strike action. Max is now on his second appeal against this outrageous decision. His victimisation shows Tesco bosses are frightened of militant trade unionists and the mass strike action in the pipeline can beat them.