Tonight I visited a number of Tesco stores in our area, I hadn’t shopped in my local Tesco since the strike started but as an Express store, It didn’t have a picket. I wanted to drop down to support those on strike because I believe their efforts are critical not just for themselves but for the entire system of industrial relations in Ireland.
As you may know, I am a city councillors but long before that I studied and practiced industrial relations. In Ireland we have a voluntary system of industrial relations. It is not like the German model which has greater elements of compulsion and there is often a lot of debate about whether that voluntary principle is a good or bad thing.
The voluntary system developed from the common law approach taken by British and Irish courts. It means that collective bargaining between employer and employees is on a voluntary basis. So is that good for employees?
There are those on the left who have argued for our system to be more compulsory and there are merits in some of those arguments but the ‘Tesco Strike’ is a good example of how a binding system would hamper an employees genuine right to withhold their labour and protect their contractual rights.
Too many in recent years have seen demonstrations and thought… ‘more protestors looking for something’. The Tesco strike is no protest. It is workers and their colleagues seeking to protect the legal contract which they signed with their employer and which despite massive inducement they have decided not to relinquish. That is their right and the Labour Court recommendation can do nothing to remove that right ( it’s a recommendation not a ruling as Tesco suggest). Why I hear you say? Because of our voluntary system!
Had the Labour Court made a binding ruling, workers would now be worse off. Instead and respectfully Tesco workers have said, we acknowledge your recommendation but we have decided to take the commercial decision to forgo our pay for a short period to put financial pressure on our employer to maintain our terms and conditions. A Strike!
Its collective bargaining at work and long may it last.
Many employers do not recognise unions for collective bargaining, I don’t agree with them, it’s often a more costly HR decision but in our system that is their right. Equally employees also have a right to withdraw their labour in order to seek better terms.
I would ask all Tesco customers including some of those students from DCU who I saw passing the picket today to support the strike, to walk that extra five minutes to another store, to buy that different product, so that those who have taken the decision to take no pay can put pressure on their employer to let them back to work as before.
I know Tesco workers will say a big thank you as you stop, think and then walk away.