Just over a week after receiving important strike warrants from more than 6,000 Tesco workers in 13 distribution centers, Unite and the Union of Retail, Distribution and Allied Workers (USDAW ) organized a surrender.
The USDAW announced on December 14 the suspension of its planned strike of 5,000 workers, which was scheduled to begin on December 20. USDAW Country Manager Joanne McGuinness said: âAfter the overwhelming vote in favor of industrial action, Tesco has reopened wage negotiations with Usdaw. I’m happy to say that we were able to get a significantly improved offer and Usdaw recommends members accept it when voting.
The âsignificantly improved offer,â announced a day later, amounted to a 5.5% wage increase backdated to July, with an additional 0.5% increase from the end of February.
This followed Unite’s suspension of the strike of 1,200 other Tesco distribution workers at four other distribution centers in favor of the same pay offer a week earlier. Country office Adrian Jones commented: âFrom the outset of this dispute Unite made it clear that Tesco could afford to make a more generous offer and it turned out to be the case. “
Tesco workers should reject these rotten deals. These key workers have voted in favor of strike action to fight a 4% below-inflation “pay hike” from a multibillion-pound organization that has reaped huge benefits from their work all. throughout a raging pandemic. The offers forced upon them by the USDAW and Unite are a betrayal of this struggle.
In the UK, workers face a cost-of-living crisis as wages fail to keep up with rising commodity costs. The total wage supply of 6% just kept pace with the RPI inflation rate reported for October. The inflation rate updated for November (7.1%) is rubbing salt in the wound. Even the lower CPI inflation rate is expected to exceed 6% next year.
No mention has been made by either union of what will happen to pay at the nine Tesco distribution centers in the UK that have not gone on strike.
The USDAW and Unite recommend that workers reverse their offensive and accept an effective pay cut under conditions in which they occupy a powerful economic position and face the serious dangers of COVID-19 in the workplace.
For several months, business leaders have been ruining an unprecedented shortage of warehouse workers. Clare Bottle, CEO of the UK Warehousing Association, complained in September that some employers had to increase wages by 20 to 30 percent to find workers for entry-level jobs. She explained, âThe problem is huge. I would say we are missing tens of thousands of people.
Earlier this month, Logistics UK reported that in the year through November vacancies for forklift drivers rose 169 percent and for warehouse jobs by 143 percent . The organization warned that labor shortages will persist, explaining: “There are concerns that some supply chain disruptions will continue into 2022 until these crucial roles are fulfilled across the board. Of the industry”. Last Thursday, BBC News ran an article titled ‘Logistics:’ Finding warehouse staff a big challenge ‘”.
Even the right The telegraph of the day was forced to acknowledge the Tesco strike, “The labor market is in favor of the unions,” quoting Paul Dales of the economic research organization Capital Economics: “There is also a lot of demand for workers, and not a lot of workers to fill those positions – or they’re not in the right industry. It gives employees a little more bargaining power: âif I leave, you may not be able to replace meâ.
A strike would leave Tesco struggling to find staff as Christmas approaches; a vital period for the profits of the company. Last year Tesco reported a âChristmas recordâ driven by an 8.1% increase in sales during the festive six-week bargaining period. Online sales alone during this period saw the company earn an additional Â£ 1billion. Clive Black, retail analyst at Shore Capital, warned while the strikes were still on the table: âTesco cannot afford a true dislocation of workforce and capacity at such a key time in the market. year.
Collective action would also create the basis for fighting for safe working conditions amid an unprecedented wave of COVID-19 infections caused by the Omicron variant. The government recorded 584,688 cases of the coronavirus in the 7 days leading up to December 20.
In addition to putting workers at risk, the spread of the infection will exacerbate labor shortages, leading to accelerations and mandatory overtime to ensure profits are maintained even if workers die. There will be continued pressure to keep workers âon the jobâ and make sure sales and profit targets for this Christmas are met.
Neil Bowker, president of the United Kingdom Warehousing Association, told the Financial Time, âSeasonal handling requirements have increased and as experienced warehouse operators isolate themselves from the virus, the challenges are magnified. “
The USDAW and Unite are attempting to orchestrate a surrender precisely because of the position of strength occupied by their members and the urgency of the pandemic situation. A powerful strike would jeopardize the unions’ corporate relationship with Tesco, through which they facilitated successive attacks on the workforce and in whose name they kept workers at work in unsafe conditions.
Today’s unions are not workers’ organizations but well-rewarded management partners for the workforce police. USDAW General Secretary Paddy Lillis receives a salary and benefits to the tune of Â£ 166,509 per year. He receives more in pension contributions on his own (Â£ 23,560) than many Tesco warehouse workers earn in total. Sharon Graham’s predecessor as Unite’s general secretary, Len McCluskey (figures for her are not yet available) received Â£ 101,568 a year.
Pushing their sold-out deal, Graham said, âTesco’s enhanced offering shows what our members can accomplish together. The USDAW’s McGuinness echoed, “This is a clear demonstration of what can be achieved when we collectively stand together. “
But âunited membersâ is precisely what unions are trying to prevent. Unite called off a planned strike by 1,100 Morrisons distribution workers in late November for a 5% deal. They are trying to do the same with Tesco, isolating Asda’s 7,000 distribution workers dragged down by an advisory vote by GMB for action in the new year.
USDW, Unite and GMB fear that strikes at three of the UK’s four largest supermarket chains over the Christmas trade season, potentially involving tens of thousands of workers and amid a wave of pandemic, spread to other logistics workers and embolden the working class more broadly.
Workers from all sectors are showing increasing activism, including warehouse workers at B&Q, bus drivers at Stagecoach, teachers and parents against unsafe schools, public transport and NHS workers. The unions are acting like firefighters to quell the class struggle and prevent the outbreak of actions that could unduly threaten corporate profits and the government’s policy of “living with the virus”.
The Socialist Equality Party urges Tesco workers to break free from the grip of the union bureaucracy by forming grassroots committees. It is only through these organizations that they can use their strength and advance their struggle, mobilizing wider layers of workers in a common struggle based on their own independent interests, not those of the company and unions.