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Tesco confident it can deliver Christmas for customers despite strike action that could hit online and in-store product availability

Tesco says it is confident it can deliver Christmas for its customers, with contingency plans against planned strike action that has the potential to disrupt online orders and leave store shelves empty.

The industrial action comes as warehouse workers and HGV drivers represented by two unions have voted to strike from December 20 up until Christmas. Both Unite and Usdaw say Tesco’s 4% pay offer does not keep up with the rising cost of living at a time when inflation is running at 6%, as measured by the ONS Retail Price Index. 

Usdaw and Unite have now both given notice of strike action starting on Monday December 20 and running up at least until Christmas Eve. More than 5,000 Usdaw members at nine Tesco distribution centres across the UK have this week voted for industrial action rejecting a 4% annual pay increase that the union says will not keep up with the rising cost of living.

Joanne McGuinness, Usdaw national officer, says its ballots saw high turnout and a strong mandate for action, with 73% and 84% in favour of action in two polls and it is now looking for an improved offer from the supermarket.

“Retail distribution workers are key workers who delivered essential services throughout the pandemic, which in turn delivered a 16.5% increase in profit to Tesco for the first half of the year,” says McGuiness. “These workers deserve a decent pay rise as their reward for what they have done and continue to do day in day out; couple that with the rising cost of living and inflation currently running at 6%, the company needs to do better.

“Industrial action and possible stock shortages in stores in the week before Christmas can be avoided. It needs the company to engage positively in talks with Usdaw and we stand ready to reopen negotiations.”

Previously, warehouse workers and HGV drivers represented by Unite at Tesco’s Livingstone distribution depot also voted for action. Unite action is also scheduled to take place at four Tesco depots in Northern Ireland, Didcot and Doncaster in coming weeks. 

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Tesco is a multi-billion pound profitable company built on the backs 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. 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.”

A Tesco spokesperson said: “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. 

“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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