Tesco staff to strike in run-up to Christmas in further blow to festive food supply chain

6 December 2021, 00:01

Tesco warehouse workers are due to strike during the crucial Christmas period
Tesco warehouse workers are due to strike during the crucial Christmas period. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

Warehouse workers and drivers employed by Tesco are set to stage a series of strikes in the coming weeks, adding to worries about the supply of Christmas food during the festive season.

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More than 1,000 members of staff at depots in Antrim, Belfast, Didcot and Doncaster will take industrial action in a dispute over pay, according to Unite.

Workers at the Didcot and Doncaster sites will strike for 48 hours from 6am on December 16, followed by a further five-day stoppage from December 20.

More strikes will be held at the two sites after Christmas.

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Unite members at the Antrim and Belfast Tesco distribution centres will launch an all-out, continuous strike from 7am on December 16.

Unite announced that a strike ballot result of its members at Tesco's distribution centre in Livingston, Scotland, will be known on Monday.

If workers vote for industrial action they will be likely to join the strike action before Christmas, said the union.

Tesco has said there are "contingency plans" in place to reduce disruption to the supply chain.

Unite said the company had offered a 4 per cent pay rise, describing it as "well below" the current retail price index (RPI) inflation rate of 6 per cent.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said the supermarket giant should be making a "decent pay offer" for its staff, highlighting their vital role throughout the course of the pandemic.

"Our members have gone above and beyond the call of duty to keep Tesco's shelves filled throughout the pandemic," said Ms Graham.

"At the very least the UK's largest and wealthiest retailer should be making our members a decent pay offer.

"Unite always prioritises the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and it will be giving its full and total support to our members at Tesco until this dispute is resolved."

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Unite national officer Adrian Jones said: "Unite is taking strike action as a last resort having exhausted all other options.

"Even at this late stage Tesco could still avoid severe disruption in its stores by returning to the negotiating table and making a greatly improved offer."

Tesco said its offer was one of the highest awards made within its distribution business in the last 25 years.

"Our distribution colleagues have worked tirelessly through the pandemic in order to keep products moving for customers," said a spokesperson for the supermarket.

"The pay offer we have made is a fair recognition of this, and is one of the highest awards made within our distribution business in the last 25 years, building on our highly competitive pay and rewards package.

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"We welcome the decision by our colleagues at the sites who have voted against industrial action.

"We are disappointed that some have voted to proceed, and we have contingency plans in place to help mitigate any impacts.

"We have worked hard to deliver Christmas for our customers and are confident we will be able to fulfil our plans."