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Polish Wildcat Strike In Dublin: Workers Refuse To Break Their Backs For Their Tesco Bosses

category dublin | worker & community struggles and protests | feature author Friday July 29, 2005 12:02author by Editorial Group Report this post to the editors

"Today we strike!"

After the scandals with GAMA and Irish Ferries, Tesco are the latest employers to have been reported to be exploiting foreign workers in Ireland. On Thursday afternoon, temporary agency workers from Poland organising as "Committee of Defence of Temp Workers in Tesco" staged a picket outside their workplace in Greenhills while other workers inside temporarily downed tools in a solidarity strike.

Their main grievance is that they are continually being asked to meet higher productivity levels. The levels currently being demanded by management present a danger to the health of the workers. The start of these demands on the workforce came soon after the entry of Poland into the EU and more Polish workers were hired by Tesco through temping agencies. Tesco is taking unfair advantage of workers coming from Poland who are unaware of their rights as employees and who are at first grateful to get a job which pays more than they would get at home.

As the workers are temporary, they can be just let go if they fail to meet these ever-increasing targets. Due to the new targets being unsustainable, there has been much dissatisfaction among the workforce. Two Polish workers who were vocally expressing this dissent found themselves fired for their efforts. Along with the demand that productivity targets be reduced to a manageable level, the workers are demanding that the two employees who were laid off have their jobs reinstated and that agency temps who work for longer than 3 months should get a permanent contract from Tesco with all the associated benefits.

Audio Interviews With Protesters at Greenhills, Tesco Distribution Centre
Related Story On Indymedia Polska

Related Indymedia Ireland Articles:
Some Information On Companies Exploiting Workers In Ireland
Stand Up For Your Rights Campaign
Joe Higgins' Challenge to Irish Trade Unions: Protect Migrant Workers

Two Polish workers who literally refused to break their backs for the boss in Tesco distribution have been fired. "Usually we pick 750 (boxes), but after three months of the normal rate our manager wants more, more, more . . . it's not possible picking 900. You must look after your back, and health and safety processes. If you pick 1,000 you'll break your back, you can not work like that." Work at first there seemed okay according to some of the Irish, but then Poland joined the EU and the company started to up the demands placed on workers in the centre as it started to hire Poles through a temp agency Grafton Recruitment.

The next time you're walking down Grafton Street keep an eye peeled for their poster. A young worker vaults over a pole - "Just how flexible do you want to be?" the poster asks - saying more about the insecurity of the modern work situation than any sociologist. "We have the interview every month and they say to us to pick up to 900 and a 1000. My manager told me I must pick up 130 cases an hour. It's ridiculous. The norm is 100. Anyway, there is no pick rate (anywhere else) in the whole country. After that he took in another guy and told him you must pick 140. Then another guy and he said to him 1100 a day. They say more, more more . . . you can not do that!" One of the fired blokes went into work one day wearing a T-shirt with the slogan 'no more than 900' on the front. Maybe this sparked the retribution from management?

The eight or so Polish workers standing in the rain start to look cheerful after a phone call. The fifty or so other workers in there have downed tools in solidarity with them. Every once in a while one of the drenched picketeers shouts across to security - "Today we strike!"

"In Tesco people were treated very badly. Used very much not as people but as a product. The target of work was increased all the time and there was no more pay for it, even when people worked harder than previously. Some of them do not agree with this situation and they will fight for the rights which they have." Later they tell me SIPTU organised a meeting on the shop floor. A phonecall from the union rep. advises them that their protest is illegal.

Eventually a group of three men, two in yellow bibs, emerges from the centre. Judging from the suit trousers and shoes peeking up at me from beneath the waterproofs, I assumed they were management. I eavesdrop. "This is an illegal protest lads, you have to follow the proper channels, there was work there for you but you didn't want it, you'll have your day in the labour court." Yeah - I'm sure they will, but as this bluffer for management that passes as a trade unionist heads back into the warmth the only thing I can think is that these two chaps will probably have gone through two more shit jobs by the time the labour court sides with the employer.

News of todays action bounced around a Polish anarchist list, made its way to Italy and eventually we in Dublin heard. In a bizarre internationalisation of struggle the media in Poland spent the day chasing after several solidarity demos there - "so our friends that were sacked from Tesco let them know via email and telephone and people from Squats in Warsaw and elsewhere protested as a solidarity act. There's a lot of people, and there is a lot of media. What's more the security in Tesco (in Poland) let people stay on the parking lot there. So I think to sum up, it will be in the press and media what is going down in Tesco across the World." Networks of punks, squatters and anarchists organised around the Rozbrat squat had picketed two Tescos in two Polish cities.

Walking up to this protest one thing was clear the summer has tucked its tails between its legs and hightailed, its wet and the down pour is miserable. There's maybe eight people in the distance, and there's no point trying to roll a smoke. one is holding up a soaked card board placard with the following demands - "1. Bukat and Sawicki must come back to work for Tesco distribution. 2. Contracts for agency staff after 3 month work for Tesco. 3. The 1,000 cases norm per day must be cancelled"

When they started working in Tesco, they were grateful for the 9.52 per hour, but after a while watching the Tesco system in operation they were forced to critically evaluate their role there. They find that Tesco will not give out contracts because it can get away with using and abusing agency workers. Then there are the agencies. They make money from their work, wringing them dry. In the middle, the workers usually foreigners with language difficulties, unaware of their rights and starved of work, take whatever is going.

Original Newswire Report submitted by Joe WSM

Following on from the GAMA and Irish Ferry scandals it appears TESCO's are the latest company to be caught out exploiting migrant workers. A picket took place at their Distribution depot on Greenhills Road in Dublin today.

We first became aware of the issue late yesterday after receiving an email from Poland via someone in Italy (globalisation cuts both ways). The text of this follows (edited to remove full names).


We received a statement by a Committee of Defence of Temp Workers in Tesco in Dublin organized by Polish temp workers. They organized after two temp workers, Z. B. and R. S. were laid off from Tesco Distribution on Greenhills Road in Dublin. They were fired for protesting against continuous rising of daily norms and criticizing the recruitment system (leasing employees from temp agencies Grafton and Jobs).

The Committee of Defence of Temp Workers in Tesco demands:

1. Cancel the layoff for the fired workers
2. Making a rule that a temp worker who worked longer than 3 months gets a permanent contract with all benefits
3. Tesco must get rid of the daily norm of 1000 boxes.

The Committee will organize a protest at the gate of the wholesale department on July 28th (this thursday) at 13:30 Dublin time. Demands will be passed to management during the picket. If the demands are ignored, the Committee will call for a strike at Tesco Distribution and a blockade of the wholesale department.


People who attended the picket to show solidarity reported that a short strike had taken place in the depot that morning and that around a dozen workers were picketing the gate over lunch. The workers who were Polish reported that protests are also taking place in Poland today in solidarity with them.

They had made two banners for the picket one of which showed cartoon of a worker being torn apart between TESCOs and the temp agency.

It is estimated that there are over 50,000 Polish workers in Ireland.

 #   Title   Author   Date 
   Dúshaothrú inimiriceoirí?     Duine    Thu Jul 28, 2005 16:05 
   Polish Workers refuse To Break Their Back For Their Boss: Photos     James R    Thu Jul 28, 2005 23:23 
   greenhills     jack    Fri Jul 29, 2005 14:55 
   Location location     Joe    Fri Jul 29, 2005 15:22 
   Audio Report     james r via radio.indymedia via eeeekkk    Fri Jul 29, 2005 15:49 
   Simple solidarity suggestion     Joe    Fri Jul 29, 2005 17:42 
   The World is mad.     dozzey    Fri Jul 29, 2005 19:40 
   Illegal strikes?     Phuq Hedd    Fri Jul 29, 2005 20:07 
   Did you know?     Michael Caine    Fri Jul 29, 2005 20:25 
 10   TESCO International Chain based in Ireland....Workers Rights     Michelle Clarke    Fri Jul 29, 2005 20:53 
 11   Connecting with other Poles + Boycotting Dublin Tesco stores     Damien Moran    Fri Jul 29, 2005 22:07 
 12   Text Of The Leaflett The Polish Workers Distributed Outside The Distribution Gate     James R    Sun Jul 31, 2005 18:56 
 13   Great story James     seedot    Mon Aug 01, 2005 15:12 
 14   Distribution Of Leaflets To Raise Awareness Of Temp Conditions This Thursday     Tesco Temp Defence Committee    Mon Aug 01, 2005 22:22 
 15   From (Cork) Examiner     Joe    Tue Aug 02, 2005 16:36 
 16   Did Indymedia get any accreditation for this article.     I wonder    Tue Aug 02, 2005 17:32 
 17   More Coverage     webhack    Tue Aug 02, 2005 17:41 
 18   Where are the Irish Unions? They claim they need more members!!!     Michelle Clarke    Tue Aug 02, 2005 22:10 
 19   " Did Indymedia get any accreditation for this article."     indy ed.    Tue Aug 02, 2005 23:28 
 20   Polish workers are now on hunger strike at the French port of St Nazaire     iosaf    Wed Aug 03, 2005 00:57 
 21   Question?     Question    Wed Aug 03, 2005 07:06 
 22   No     Joe    Wed Aug 03, 2005 11:24 
 23   Average wage     Average wage    Wed Aug 03, 2005 11:34 
 24   TESCO wage     Joe    Wed Aug 03, 2005 11:50 
 25   if the 25 state EU doesn't give equality, security and "nice things" to the workers of what was east     Been here for 25 years    Wed Aug 03, 2005 12:41 
 26   re: Been here for 25 years     Joe    Wed Aug 03, 2005 13:12 
 27   TGWU Press Release     belboid    Wed Aug 03, 2005 16:56 
 28   Nice one belboid!     gurrier    Wed Aug 03, 2005 18:34 
 29   “Polish workers in the UK .."     Correction    Wed Aug 03, 2005 20:49 
 30   It's not a correction     Chekov    Wed Aug 03, 2005 21:40 
 31   And...     Al    Wed Aug 03, 2005 22:35 
 32   Link     asdf    Wed Aug 03, 2005 23:53 
 33   update on the polish hunger strike workers in France.     iosaf    Thu Aug 04, 2005 13:13 
 34   Hiberno-Blogosphere: Migrants don't take Irish jobs     redjade    Thu Aug 04, 2005 13:19 
 35   IRISH TIMES ARTICLE ON PROTEST     WEBHACK    Thu Aug 04, 2005 18:08 
 36   To Jade     Elle    Thu Aug 04, 2005 18:11 
 37   Which one?     Clarity_is _everything    Thu Aug 04, 2005 18:14 
 38   location     Tobie*    Thu Aug 04, 2005 18:31 
 39   Lower Baggot Street     James R    Thu Aug 04, 2005 18:32 
 40   Belfast Solidarity With Tesco Temp Workers     Jason Brannigan    Thu Aug 04, 2005 22:55 
 41   Solidarity with Polish workers in Ireland, from Hackney, London     renegado    Fri Aug 05, 2005 05:50 
 42   'No more splitting us on national lines... '     Be accurate    Fri Aug 05, 2005 08:42 
 43   Inimiriceoirí agus Éireannaigh!     Duine    Fri Aug 05, 2005 16:14 
 44   It is about splitting on national lines     Chekov    Fri Aug 05, 2005 16:53 
 45   Tá cúis agus cúis ann     Duine    Fri Aug 05, 2005 16:59 
 46   Pick Rates     MadazHell    Fri Aug 05, 2005 17:08 
 47   re: mad     Joe    Fri Aug 05, 2005 17:16 
 48   Rátaí?     Duine    Fri Aug 05, 2005 17:25 
 49   Leeds Action     leeds    Fri Aug 05, 2005 21:45 
 50   the latest on this story?     Diarmo    Tue Aug 09, 2005 15:30 
 51   Polish Workers     Lisa    Tue Aug 09, 2005 16:17 
 52   re: Lisa     Joe    Tue Aug 09, 2005 17:13 
 53   Joe     Lisa    Tue Aug 09, 2005 18:00 
 54   Lisa, why aren't you supporting your boyfriend?     R. Isible    Tue Aug 09, 2005 18:06 
 55   Yeah, right     Albert    Tue Aug 09, 2005 18:08 
 56   Walka Trwa! (The Struggle Continues!)     Ruda    Tue Aug 09, 2005 21:49 
 57   PR     Joe    Tue Aug 09, 2005 23:05 
 58   Remarks     Lisa    Wed Aug 10, 2005 11:24 
 59   Re: Lisa comment     Peter    Wed Aug 10, 2005 11:29 
 60   TESCO are not that dumb even if Lisa/Peter is     Major Woody    Wed Aug 10, 2005 11:47 
 61   Comment     Peter    Wed Aug 10, 2005 11:57 
 62   Let it go     Jason    Wed Aug 10, 2005 12:09 
 63   Jokers     Solidarisnoc    Wed Aug 10, 2005 12:28 
 64   Let it go     Jason    Wed Aug 10, 2005 12:35 
 65   snigger     Major Woody    Wed Aug 10, 2005 12:38 
 66   Facts     Peter    Wed Aug 10, 2005 12:46 
 67   Snigger     Lisa    Wed Aug 10, 2005 12:46 
 68   ho ho     Real worker    Wed Aug 10, 2005 12:55 
 69   Cop On     Lisa    Wed Aug 10, 2005 13:01 
 70   Grosser and Grocer     Schnews    Sun Aug 14, 2005 17:09 
 71   interested     interested    Mon Aug 22, 2005 19:43 
 72   Heard they went back to college in Poland..     grapevine    Mon Aug 22, 2005 20:40 
 73   Amach anseo     Duine    Mon Aug 22, 2005 21:13 
 74   Some more coverage of this one in Poland.     Internet Searcher    Sat Aug 27, 2005 17:52 
 75   100 boxes an hour     uk tesco dc picker    Sun Jun 18, 2006 07:02 
 76   Oh, wise up ...     Liam    Tue Dec 19, 2006 03:52 
 77   "I'm not a racist but...."     Caobhin    Tue Dec 19, 2006 11:26 
 78   The interest     Pole    Mon May 07, 2007 09:57 
 79   exploitation     concerned    Tue Oct 02, 2007 00:21 

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