No Unions for U.S. Tesco

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No Unions for U.S. Tesco

LAS VEGAS -- At a recent town hall meeting in Las Vegas, a representative of United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 711 revealed it would picket Tesco's U.S. venture from its opening day because it was freezing the union out of its stores, the Las Vegas Business Press reported.

However, in a later interview with the paper, the union's secretary treasurer, Mike Gittings, said picket lines were "possible," the report stated.

Gittings said at the meeting that the Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market chain was hiring human resources staff and advising them to "use union-avoidance tactics."

"Tesco must've gotten wind they were breaking the law because now they're saying they might leave it up to employees to [unionize]," Gittings told the Business Press. "Americans must have the same freedom as [British and European] workers."

Tesco has not confirmed whether its U.S. venture would be unionized. A call to the company's Fresh & Easy media representative was not returned by press time.

Having a union-free workforce in the U.S. imitates other large retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target, and goes against the company's stance in the U.K., where it is unionized. CSNews Online reported in January that labor disputes both in-store and in its distribution network are minimal, according to Anthony Ruback of Riverhead Consulting, a London-based firm.

Ruback explained this labor-friendly position is a result of close collaboration and cooperation with U.K. labor unions, pay rates near the upper level of retail industry norms, successful embedding of a committed customer service ethic in its staff and having membership available to its high proportion of part-time workers.

Ruback confirmed rumors in January that Tesco is aiming for a non-unionized U.S. workforce, however, could not predict which way it will ultimately turn out.

"Whichever picture transpires, Tesco can be expected to do its utmost to avoid being on the receiving end of the type of actions faced by Wal-Mart. They will have studied Wal-Mart's experiences closely, and no doubt have contingencies in place to address whatever labor issues face them," he told CSNews through e-mail.