Shoppers could see empty shelves this Christmas as Tesco workers go on strike

Scotland’s shoppers could see empty shelves this Christmas as they announce they are to go on strike in an argument over pay.

Dan Barker
Monday 06 December 2021 21:40
(PA)
(PA)

Supermarket shoppers across Scotland could see empty shelves and suffer disrupted online orders in the run-up to Christmas, a union has warned, after Tesco workers voted to strike.

Unite the union, said warehouse workers – including staff and lorry drivers based at the Livingston distribution depot which provides stock to stores all across the country – will take industrial action in an argument over pay.

Its members will walk out on December 20, and will not return before Christmas, the union announced on Monday.

Shoppers have been warned they could see empty shelves after workers said they would go on strike (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Sharon Graham the union’s general secretary, said: “Tesco is a multibillion-pounds profitable company built on the back of our members.

“We are talking about the UK’s largest and wealthiest retailer, and the best they offer their workers who have gone above and beyond the call of duty during the pandemic is a real-terms pay cut.”

The union said strike action was voted for because of the grocer’s offer of a 4% pay rise, which Unite described as “derisory” and “well below” the current retail price index (RPI) inflation rate of 6%.

The current consumer prices index (CPI) is 4.2%.

“Unite always prioritises the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and it will be giving its full support to our members based in Livingston until this dispute is resolved,” the general secretary added.

And Willie Thomson, Unite’s regional officer, said staff “fully deserve a significant pay rise” and needed to put its “customers and workforce first, settle this dispute or risk shortages over the festive period”.

Members of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw) have also come out in favour of the strike, with workers of the union set to strike at the same time.

Joanne McGuinness, Usdaw’s national officer, said that “industrial action and possible stock shortages in stores in the week before Christmas can be avoided”, but that it needed Tesco “to engage positively in talks”.

It is not just Scotland where shoppers could face disruption, with Unite members at Tesco depots based in Antrim, Belfast, Didcot, and Doncaster also set to take strike action in the coming weeks as part of the nationwide pay dispute.

A Tesco spokesman said the supermarket was “disappointed” that strike action was agreed to and it had contingency plans in place to mitigate the strike’s impact.

“Our distribution colleagues have worked tirelessly through the pandemic in order to keep products moving for customers. 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,” the spokesman said.

“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.”

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