Tesco as an Employer

In 1945, 500,000 people worked as coal miners in the UK. Today that figure is a fraction. Maybe 1% of the half million are still employed as coal miners.

By contrast Tesco now employs 500,000 people across Europe – making it the biggest employer in the EU.

In 1945, the first supermarkets were yet to be built. But, now they are a ubiquitous presence across the country. In fact Tesco may be a victim of its own success. So successful have they been that one of biggest problems they have is local opposition who are opposed to a further extension of this multi-national into every aspect of modern life.

Working for Tesco

Many of Tesco’s jobs are relatively unskilled and low paid. Checkout assistants, shelf-stackers.

Tesco Share Options

Tesco’s has offered share options to staff who have worked more than a year. According to Tesco site:

In May 2006, £78 million worth of shares were given to 180,000 staff as part of our Shares in Success scheme – all staff with more than one year’s service received shares worth 3.6% of their salary. In addition, we offer a ‘Save As You Earn’ scheme to enable staff to buy shares at a discounted price as a medium or long-term investment. Around 40% of staff take part, and in February 2006, shares worth £111 million were paid out when the scheme matured. Our third all-employee scheme is called ‘Buy As You Earn’. We have over 35,000 staff currently using this scheme to buy Tesco shares from their pre-tax salary, allowing them to become Tesco shareholders in a tax efficient way.

(Tesco Listening)

Union Power

A feature of the coal mining industry was the strength of labour unions. Throughout the post-war period, the National Union of Mineworkers sought to bargain for higher wages and better conditions for its members. In the coal industry there was a high level of union density and labour activism. When the NUM went on strike it could cause severe economic disruption (e.g. three day week in 1970s)

By contrast there is little labour market activism in Tesco’s. A quick google search for Tesco and Unions brought up a BBC article

– Unions watch Tesco’s plan to cut sick pay for first 3 days. (BBC) – hardly revolutionary stuff

Why Unions Struggle in Tesco

  • Union density is much lower than old full time manufacturing
  • More part-time / temporary workers who are less attached to working conditions and pay.
  • Not the same unity of staff  that is generated in heavy manufacturing firms.
  • Strikes would have little economic sanction. Whearas coal miners could bring the country to its knees.

A strike by Tesco workers would just cause a shift in demand to Sainsbury’s

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