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(en) Ireland, Anarchist Workers Solidarity #88 - Tescos Exploits Foreign Workers

Date Sat, 29 Oct 2005 08:34:50 +0200

During July and August, major Polish newspapers, TV and radio
stations carried a story about two Polish workers, who were dismissed
from TESCO in Dublin, because of their fight for workers' rights.
Pickets organized by TESCO Temporary Workers' Defence
Committee into being took place in several towns of Ireland, Britain,
and Poland. Polish newspapers called the case 'global protest against
TESCO'. One of sacked warehouse attendants, Radek Sawicki tells us
about the struggle against TESCO and its consequences.
For workers from Poland and other central and eastern Europe
countries, work in Ireland is often only the possibility of earning pretty
good money. Since we entered the EU, the Irish labour market stands
open for us. Many people take advantage of this situation, and to-day,
there are Polish, Czech, Lithuanian and Slovakian workers in almost
every factory in Ireland. Despite the fact, that according to Irish law,
all workers in Ireland have equal rights, dishonest employers often try
to cheat temporary workers. In my case, the conflict with the employer
took some time to mature, because it took time and many
observations to realise the mechanisms by which I and many other
workers were exploited..
Arriving in Ireland

In November 2004, I arrived in Dublin, and got employment via the
GRAFTON Recruitment agency. The agency sent me to work in
TESCO Distribution warehouse, where I worked for eight months. My
main task was preparing ordered goods to be sent to shops, which
means carrying packages.

I was one of many agency workers; in addition to us, there were
workers who were employed directly by TESCO. They were doing the
same job as us, but their wages were on average ¤200 higher. Unlike
us, they had every second Saturday off, received holiday bonuses, and
had the full benefits going with normal employemnt. Naturally, every
agency worker dreams of being employed directly by TESCO, but the
corporation avoids signing contracts with workers, so it's very difficult
to get off the agency's leash. Signing a contract obliges the employers
to do many things: it's favorable for them not to get burdened by
responsibility, and to take advantage of agencies' provision of cheap
labour. The arrangement between TESCO and agencies turned out to
be useful for Tesco, when we protested against rising of daily norm.
Leaders of the protest were withdrawn from TESCO's warehouse by
agency employing them. This way TESCO got rid of the loud,
inconvenient workers.
Tesco Grinds Harder

When I started work, the daily norm in TESCO was to lift 750
packages per day. However, agency workers very often used to pick
900 or even 1000 packages, hoping, that their diligence would be
noticed, and rewarded with signing a contract with TESCO. No way!
The officiousness of these naive workers provoked TESCO to raise the
norms. First, to 800, and then to 900 packages a day.

At that moment, a group of Polish workers employed by Grafton and
Jobs went to the manager, and asked about the reason for raising the
norm. We were told that if we had a problem, we could find ourselves
some other job.

As a form of protest, the next day I put on a t-shirt with the inscription
on it: WE ARE PICKING 800. NO MORE. The atmosphere got
nervous. SPITU trade union offered its help, and agency workers
&endash; despite intimidation attempts made by the agency &endash;
started joining it. Negotiations between SPITU, TESCO and the
agencies started. In spite of that, the norm was risen again in June
&endash; to 1000 packages a day! Also an employee was fired without
any reason being given, which probably was his refusal to lift more
than 800 boxes. As sign of solidarity with him, I put on the
provocative t-shirt, again. Polish media took the topic, and started
informing about the arrangement, unfavourable for workers, between
TESCO and the agencies, and about the workers' rebellion.

One day after a big article was published in one of biggest Polish
magazines, I was called to Grafton agency office, and informed that
there is no work for me in TESCO anymore. One of the reasons
TESCO wanted to get rid of me was the criticism triggered by us in
the Polish media. The same day Zbyszek Bukala, who was also
engaged in the protest, lost his job too.

Our reaction to this attempt to silence us was to establish TESCO
Agency Workers' Defence Committee. We organized a picket in front
of gate of the warehouse we used to work in. We demanded our jobs
back, the abolishment of the 1000 packages a day norm, and adoption
of a rule saying that after three months of working in TESCO, an
agency worker automatically signs a contract with TESCO. Solidarity
actions, organised by anarchists, took place in several towns in
Poland, Britain, and Ireland. Polish workers in other factories started
talking about problems of agency workers.

Our protest was supported by trade unions and workers' groups in
several countries. If we try to summarize the outcome of the conflict
with TESCO in Dublin, we have to say, that it's an unquestionable
advantage in publicizing the problem of agency workers, a problem
still unsolved in all European countries.

More on Workplace struggles and the unions
This page is from the print version of the Irish Anarchist paper
'Workers Solidarity'. http://struggle.ws/wsm/paper.html

We also provide PDF files of all our
publications for you to print out and distribute locally

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This edition is No88 published in Sept 2005

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