Tesco’s treatment of staff overseas comes under fire from trade union

Author: By James Thompson

The UNI Tesco Global Union Alliance yesterday unveiled the first of a series of research reports criticising the UK’s biggest grocer’s treatment of staff in Thailand, South Korea and the US, where it opened its fledgling convenience store chain Fresh & Easy in 2007.

The targeting of Tesco, which made more than £3bn pre-tax profits last year, by the network of unions comes ahead of its annual shareholders’ meeting in Glasgow this week and the fact it now has operations in 14 countries.

Phil Bowyer, the deputy general secretary of the UNI Global Action, said: “We ask Tesco to take these reports seriously and take remedial action. We created a Tesco Global Union Alliance in response to a rapidly globalizing Tesco.” More specifically, the union alleges that Tesco’s operation in South Korea “forced” employees to work up to 20 hours a week of unpaid “voluntary” overtime and employed contract workers on lower pay, allowances and job security than permanent employees.

In Thailand, UNI Tesco Global Union Alliance claims the grocer required employees to work two shifts of 18 hours back-to-back. In the three countries, the research commissioned by Uni Global Union, which has 20 million workers globally, was conducted between December 2008 and June 2009.

A spokesman for UNI Tesco Global Union Alliance praised Tesco’s relationship with the shopworkers union Usdaw in the UK, but said: “When you go abroad the reality is very different.” A Tesco spokeswoman said: “This is a politically motivated report paid for by a union which is trying to recruit more members. The reports are a travesty and misrepresent the truth. Uni are using a standard tack of going to far off places, producing reports which are very difficult for people in the UK to check. We do check these matters and can tell you that the allegations are untrue.” She added: “Wherever we operate in the world, all staff are free to join trade unions and can voice their opinions in a number of ways, including our anonymous annual staff survey.”

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