Five Polish former agency workers organised a picket of TESCO in Liverpool town centre in solidarity with the demands of the TESCO Temps Defence Committee in Ireland. The five, all members of the Transport and General Workers Union painted T-Shirts, banners and Placards in Polish with the following statements:
The largest banner read: 'WE CAN CHANGE THIS SITUATION. WE'RE FIGHTING FOR IMPROVEMENT NOW! LETS NOT ALLOW OURSELVES TO BE EXPLOITED BY EMPLOYMENT AGENCIES'.
Another stated: 'THE 1000 BOX NORM MUST BE ABOLISHED'
A placard also read: 'WE'RE PROUD TO BELONG TO THE TGWU'
They also handed out the Irish workers' leaflet to passers by.
The five worker activists had had their own experience of exploitation, extortion, intimidation and abuse at the hand of an unscrupulous employment agency which was mainly managed and staffed by Polish bosses.
Many passers-by stopped to talk to the picketers and some boycotted TESCO that day, due to the visual and vocal picket. Protestors chanted 'BOYCOTT TESCOS! NO WORKER EXPLOITATION'.
Many local Polish residents also stopped to talk to the protestors, exchanging similar stories and experiences of employment agency corruption and exploitation. Some joined the picket, congratulating them and the Polish workers' in Dublin's stand and courage. One of the protestors said, 'We're here in solidarity with all Polish workers in the UK being exploited by agencies, whether British or Polish managed, because we've been through what they've been through. We want to stand up to the agencies and big business which make big money out of us like TESCOs and ASDA and say We've had Enough of this exploitation'.
Local radio and community newspaper journalists also stopped by and took photos and interviewed the protestors.
Approximately 20 workers solidarity activists picketed Argyle Street TESCO in Glasgow in support of the protests and demands of the TESCO Temps Defence Committee in Dublin. 1500 leaflets were distributed and many passers by and store staff were interested by and supportive of the action. Despite TESCO security trying to move people on, the protestors held their ground and continued to engage the public. Organisers of the picket - activists acting in the spirit and under the banner of the Industrial Workers of the World - said the protest was a great success and great fun.
Direct report from protest organizers:
In the true spirit of Robin Hood, half a dozen trade unionists and community activists lobbied for a bit of wealth re-distribution on behalf of the migrant workers being exploited by Grafton and Tescos. Leaflets explaining why we were outside the city centre store were well-received by the public, some of whom actually approached us for information. After 15 minutes, a Tesco employee asked us who had authorised us, to which we replied that we had "kind of authorised ourselves"! Shortly after, Victoria Centre security (Tesco's is situated in a shopping centre) "moved us on" as we hadn't gained permission from the centre management to hand out the leaflets (silly us).
Still, we continued to hand information outside the entrance to the Victoria Centre, happy to contribute to the heat we hope Tescos and Grafton must be starting to feel.
Text of report:
We started the picket at the shop entrance of Tescos, Roundhay Road, Leeds and tried to target Tesco staff.
We were moved to the main road outside quite quickly. We thought it would be more difficult to make contact with people on the road but were surprised when almost every car stopped for information.
Tesco customers were very supportive, saying things like, 'Thanks for doing this, I hate Tescos!' and 'I must find somewhere else to shop.' One shopper joined the picket.
Some Tesco staff waved their support from the store and Tesco delivery drivers took information on their way out. When Tesco called the police they took a leaflet and left us to get on with it.
We were very encouraged by the support of Tesco customers and workers. I hope the workers in Dublin are too.
The picket went well -- four people turning out at short notice, with a decidedly rustic placard. Despite this, gave out 150 leaflets in under an hour. The response was generally very good -- this is the centre of radical East Oxford, of course!
Management had been informed that we were coming, and knew about all the protests happening around the country. Several workers from inside Tesco defied their boss to come and talk to us. We were told that in the UK, like in Ireland, Tesco tries to exploit those who do not know their rights, recent immigrants from south Asia, was one example given.
Two radio interviews were done by Green Councillor Matt Sellwood, but the press failed to turn up on the day -- so no pictures.
Another person told of more horror stories -- care workers from East Europe, qualified nurses all, who are being paid a pittance, sleeping eight to a room, all controlled by gang masters who hold the nurses' passports
And one woman thought that the misspellings on the leaflet was me having a pop at the Irish!
The first London solidarity picket for the 2 Polish Tescos workers sacked last week in Dublin took place on Thursday evening. Around 20 people turned out to leaflet shoppers and staff at the Tesco's store on Morning Lane in Hackney - the same store targeted by the Precarity Assembly for action on Mayday this year.
The picket was very well received by shoppers, many of whom were approaching us for leaflets rather than the other way around! One staff member, leaving the store after finishing her shift told us "I shouldn't be seen talking to you lot here, but I just wanted to say I totally support this."
Tescos managers on the other hand were not so impressed. As the first pickets arrived just before 6pm, a line of 6 managers were spread across the entrance to the store, possibly fearing a repeat performance of the Mayday antics. The picket had no plan for such action - on this occasion. We hope that Tescos will make the sensible choice and agree to the demands put forward by the Committee of Defence of Temp Workers in Tesco which are:
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.
This campaign is just beginning and we hope that many more pickets and protest will take place at Tescos' stores while they continue their attacks on the terms and conditions of their fulltime workers and continue to ill treat and ignore the demands their agency workforce.