Tesco could be sued over threat to sack striking staff

Tesco has broken the law by trying to avert a strike with threats of pay cuts and redundancies, a trade union has claimed.

Usdaw said on Monday that it could start a walkout across nine warehouses from December 20, when Christmas orders are due to be shipped out.

However, The Herald reports that staff at its largest site in Livingston, West Lothian, are concerned this could mean losing their jobs.

Tesco distribution director Andrew Woolfenden sent a letter to employees when they recently rejected a four cent pay rise, saying they would lose bonuses of around £2000.

READ MORE: Tesco facing Christmas ‘stock shortages’ after strike threat

He added that if the strike continued for 12 weeks, “we may decide to terminate your employment.”

Usdaw is said to be taking legal advice over the “unlawful” threats.

It told members: “The company has resorted to threatening to take money away from their hard working staff simply as a result of exercising their right to ballot for industrial action.

“We will be contacting the company to understand why they believe they have a legal right to make these threats.

“It is extremely important that we do not allow the company’s tactics to influence the outcome of the ballot.”

The Livingston warehouse opened in 2008, employs nearly 2000 people, and supplies all the Tesco stores across Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Sites in Daventry, Goole, Hinckley, Lichfield, Peterborough and Southampton, plus two hubs in Magor, could also see strikes next month.

Supermarkets are concerned that industrial action could topple the already-fragile supply chain, making Christmas deliveries or fully-stocked shelves impossible.

This week, striking Sainsbury’s hauliers in the South West won an “inflation-busting” 14 per cent pay rise.

Woolfenden told Livingston staff that the “fair and competitive four per cent offer” was one of the highest offers made in Tesco distribution for over 25 years. 

“Going beyond the four per cent increase… would prevent us from continuing to run the business efficiently which enables us to preserve and create jobs,” he said.

Speaking to the Grocery Gazette, a Tesco spokesperson downplayed the prospect of Christmas disruption.

“We welcome the decision by our colleagues at the sites who have voted against industrial action,” they said.

“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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