Now step up the campaign to reinstate victimised Tesco rep Max McGee
Iain Dalton, Usdaw Broad Left chair and Socialist Party member
The run up to Christmas is the busiest time of year for retail workers. Despite this, Tesco workers, Usdaw members and other supporters joined an online public meeting on 14 December convened by Usdaw Broad Left.
The meeting discussed the dispute and potential strike action by Tesco distribution workers organised in the Unite and Usdaw unions, as well as campaigning for the reinstatement of Usdaw Tesco Hinckley branch secretary and rep, Max McGee, who was sacked by Tesco in the period the distribution workers were balloting for strike action.
The potential for coordinated strike action between the two unions across 13 distribution centres, a majority of which distribute for Tesco, would have been historic. As one of the negotiators who attended the meeting commented: “Tesco threw every dirty trick at members to stop them voting for strike action but to no avail.” They praised the resolve of members in voting for strike action which has won the increased offers from Tesco.
The offers are more than the 2.5% and 4% Tesco had previously offered, with Unite members at four sites forcing a revised offer of a 5.5% pay rise backdated to July, with a further 0.5% in February. In addition, they have won some concessions on overtime and holidays at some specific depots, and Usdaw has subsequently reached a similar offer at nine sites.
Strike action has been suspended while these offers, which the unions have recommended be accepted, are balloted on.
But the victimisation of Max McGee has yet to be resolved. Outrageously, Max was initially dismissed for ‘making up an injury’, later revised to ‘exaggerating an injury’, a clear victimisation of a key union activist.
Max spoke of the mood of anger among warehouse workers who have seen Tesco profit during the pandemic while exhorting their workforce to work ever harder. This, alongside the impact of inflation, had fuelled the mood to vote for strike action, with 80% voting in favour at Hinckley.
While welcoming the concession from Tesco, Max warned of the need for the union to remain vigilant in case the company tries to snatch back the increased pay through altering performance software to speed up work and force workers into unsafe working practices.
Unfortunately, the morning after the meeting we found out that Max’s delayed second appeal had been turned down. The same energy which was beginning to mobilise behind the strikes must now be channelled into forcing Tesco to reinstate Max. Usdaw branches and trades councils should invite Max to speak about his case and pledge their support for his reinstatement.
- Invites to speak can be sent to [email protected]
- Donations to fund the campaign to reinstate Max can be made via gofundme.com/f/reinstate-max-usdaw-rep-socialist