A Tesco spokeswoman said the UK recruitment programme involved the hiring of Poles to work in stores and depots and as drivers in areas where local unemployment is particularly low. The initiative kicked off in February when 140 Poles were hired to work at Tesco sites across the country.
Although she would not give precise numbers of how many Polish workers the company now employed, it is believed to be well into the hundreds, with
20 recruited in the past month to work at its Westcliff store in Essex alone.
However, the spokeswoman quashed any notion that Polish staff were a source of cheap labour. “The new staff will enjoy the same rates of pay and benefits package as existing staff,” she said.
But unrest at Tesco’s distribution centre in Dublin over pay discrimination against temporary Polish workers is now to be investigated by the Irish Labour Relations Commission.
The workers, hired through an agency, claim they are being paid less than Tesco’s contract staff for doing the same job and that they are being “pushed harder than is reasonable” to meet productivity targets. Both Tesco and the agency, Grafton Recruitment, have denied the allegations.
Some of the workers protested outside a Dublin city centre Tesco store last Friday (August 5), handing out leaflets demanding equal pay for equal work.
A claim by two workers that they had been sacked, after complaining about their working conditions at the distribution centre in Tallaght, was denied by both Tesco and the agency. Tesco, in a statement, said temporary staff were supplied by Grafton Recruitment under a longstanding arrangement that was in line with those elsewhere in the Irish economy. “Tesco Distribution has established agreed rates of pay and premiums with Grafton Recruitment, which are in the upper quartile for the industry.”
The Labour Relations Commission is to investigate following a complaint by Ireland’s largest union, SIPTU. A union official said there was “a substantial difference” between the pay rates of the temporary agency workers and Tesco’s contract staff, with the former receiving E357 compared with E540 for the same week’s work.
Rachel Barnes & Anthony Garvey