Tesco's 9,500 Irish staff are to vote on strike action at its 76 stores across the Republic in support of a claim for "significant and substantial pay increases". The two unions involved, Mandate and SIPTU, decided to call a ballot because of what they claim has been a lack of progress in talks with Tesco The result of the vote will be known by the end of May, with strike action, if it takes place, unlikely before June at the earliest. Tesco expressed surprise at "the precipitate action" of the unions. The current agreement with the unions was not due for review until October, and Tesco remained available to continue the talks. But John Douglas, industrial officer with Mandate, which represents 9,000 of the staff, maintained that Tesco was "one of the lowest payers in the Irish retail trade". The I£4.85-an-hour starting rate at its Dublin stores, he said, was 20p to 25p an hour lower than its competitors'. {{NEWS }}