The risk that Tesco will be severely hit by strike action in the crucial pre-Christmas period has escalated dramatically, after the number of distribution centres facing staff walkouts more than tripled to 13 – more than half the total.
Britain’s biggest supermarket chain was facing the prospect of strikes at four depots after members of the trade union Unite voted for industrial action in protest at an “offensive” below-inflation pay offer.
Members of the retail workers’ union Usdaw followed suit on Monday, adding a further nine sites to the list of those that could be affected unless a deal can be reached. The union warned that Tesco could face “stock shortages” as a result.
In total, 13 out of 22 distribution centres at Tesco are now at risk of being disrupted by industrial action in the busy weeks either side of Christmas.
Usdaw said it had given notice of a stoppage starting on 20 December and concluding on Christmas Eve, after two separate ballots supported action by 73% and 84%.
“Our members have sent a clear message, with this high turnout and strong support for industrial action,” said its national officer, Joanne McGuinness. “We hope that the company is listening and that they will return to the negotiating table with a better deal that is acceptable to our members.
“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.
“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.”
The Usdaw vote affects sites at Daventry Clothing, Goole, Hinckley, Lichfield, Livingston, two at Magor, Peterborough and Southampton.
On Sunday, Unite said warehouse workers and HGV drivers at depots in Doncaster, Didcot, Belfast and Antrim would start a series of rolling strikes from 16 December.
The unions said members had rejected a 4% annual pay increase, pointing out that the retail price index measure of inflation is 6%.
Responding to the Usdaw vote, Tesco reiterated its comment on the Unite strike, saying its pay offer was “fair”. The company is understood to be in ongoing talks with unions.