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'It's very frustrating' - Union not happy with Tesco anti-strike ad campaign

Strike action at Tesco stores has been suspended temporarily to facilitate negotiations.

IMG_20170224_183815 Source: TheJournal.ie

THE TRADE UNION representing striking Tesco workers has expressed its frustration with the company for running an extensive advertising campaign encouraging customers to pass the picket line and shop at stores where strike action is taking place.

It was announced last night that strike action at Tesco stores would be suspended in order to facilitate talks at the Labour Court between the Mandate trade union and Tesco.

Double and full-page advertisements have been taken out by Tesco Ireland in various broadsheet and tabloid newspapers since industrial action began on Tuesday 14 February.

For example, on Wednesday of this week advertisements were taken out in the Irish Independent, the Irish Daily Star, the Irish Daily Mirror and the Irish Sun.

In each case the advertisement was placed close to front page of the newspaper and the ads were identical across each publication.

One page displays a number of special offers available at the store. The other informs customers that all Tesco stores remain open and condemns the strike action as “unjustified”.

“We call on Mandate to stop their unjustified strike action in 16 stores and accept the Labour Court recommendation which Tesco has accepted in its totality,” part of the ad reads, below a number of paragraphs outlining why Tesco is a good place to work.

Tesco The advertisement taken out by Tesco. Source: Tesco

Similar advertisements – as well as ones without the page calling for the strike action to stop – have also featured in the Irish Times, the Sunday Independent as well as the above titles on various days since the beginning of the strike action.

Advertising rates of cost vary from publication to publication.

According to the Irish Times rates card, a single full-page advertisement costs €34,000 to take out.

Based off 2013 rates, a colour double page spread in the Irish Independent costs €36,955. While a full-page colour advertisement in the Sunday Independent costs €42,170.

According to Media Street, a full-page ad in the Irish Daily Mirror costs €9,544 and in the Sun €12,715.

All the above prices are for individual advertisements. In general, newspapers and magazine companies that have a long-standing relationships with a customer will offer significant discounts on ad space (as is likely the case with Tesco).

Pushing customers past the picket lines

David Gibney, representative for Mandate trade union, told TheJournal.ie that the advertisements “caused more conflict between worker and customer”.

“These ads are about pushing customers passed the picket lines,” said Gibney.

It’s very frustrating for us to see.

Gibney also pointed to actions by management in individual stores as examples of the dispute being treated like “a game”.

nXgTLM8g David Gibney said the campaign was about undermining the strike. Source: twitter

Gibney pointed to an example earlier this week when the below sign was posted on the window of Tesco Drumcondra. This followed ballots of eight stores by Mandate in which seven stores voted not to join the strike action (the sign has since been removed).

C5Q2rJhWQAEQMWm A sign stuck on the window of tesco Drumcondra. Source: Cormac Fitzgerald/TheJournal.ie

A spokesperson for Tesco Ireland told TheJournal.ie that the company takes out advertisements “all year round”.

“Over the last week we have used some of that space to communicate to our customers and apologise for any disruption caused by this unnecessary strike action and also to share some points about Tesco as an employer,” the spokesperson said.

In relation to loss of revenue, the spokesperson said there had been “some impact on trade” due to the strike action.

“But we are really pleased with the response from customers with over 45,000 customers shopping in the 16 stores subject to this unnecessary action over the weekend,” the spokesperson said.

Now, both sides have agreed to meet with a view to ending the industrial dispute.

The dispute centres around proposed changes Tesco is hoping to bring to the contracts of long-term workers at the company.

Tesco Ireland currently employs over 14,500 workers. About 250 workers in total (or just under 2%) – who have been working for the company since before 1996 – will be affected by these changes.

C43wkFlWYAAhYWa Workers striking outside tesco Drumcondra. Source: Cormac Fitzgerald/TheJournal.ie

All strikes are temporarily suspended while the talks are ongoing. While Tesco has committed to bringing no changes to the pre-96 workers’ contracts while the sides are negotiating.

Tesco has previously condemned Mandate for the ongoing strike action, labelling it as unnecessary and unjustified.

It argues that the contracts need to be changed in order for the company to remain competitive.

Tesco has called on Mandate to accept a Labour Court recommendation, which it says will protect the rate of pay of the affected workers. Mandate disputes this, saying that workers will face pay cuts.

The union has criticised Tesco for not properly engaging with them, claiming that the contract changes will negatively impact workers’ pay and conditions, a point which Tesco strongly disputes.

A spokesperson for Mandate told theJournal.ie talks would get underway at the Labour Court “shortly”.

Read: A St Pat’s lecturer brought her students to Tesco today to teach them about the strike

Read: Tesco claims 45,000 people shopped at stores picketed by strikers

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About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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