Any of our business? Human Rights and the UK private sector - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents

Supplementary memorandum submitted by the UFCW

  Following the meeting that the Chairman and members of the Joint Committee held with the UFCW in Washington DC in June, and the oral evidence session on 30 June involving Tesco, I wish to submit a short, supplementary note and formally to enclose as supplementary evidence the three reports published on 30 June 2009 by UN[ Global Union on Tesco's employment practices in Thailand, South Korea and the USA.

  We were very grateful for the opportunity to meet the Chairman and members of the Joint Committee to explain the background to the issue that we have with Tesco's approach to labour relations in the USA. We felt that the Committee understood our position and listened carefully to our explanations of the efforts that we have made to engage constructively with Tesco over its Fresh and Easy subsidiary in the United States.

  In this note, I would like to put on record our disagreement with some of the statements made by the Director of Legal and Corporate Affairs, Ms Lucy Neville-Rolfe in the oral hearing. Ms Neville-Rolfe stated several times that the complaints made in the UNI reports were untrue, but provided no evidence to support her allegation. She also said:

    "The trade unions in the United States haven't come along in a collaborative and constructive way in quite the way that I described for Usdaw."

  This is also completely untrue. As we told the Joint Committee members when we met in Washington DC, we made repeated attempts to meet with Tesco to discuss partnership, as the following chronology of our early attempts will demonstrate.


Early 2006   Via UNI Global Union, UFCW President Joe Hansen expressed the desire to meet Sir Terry Leahy, CEO of Tesco, to discuss labour relations in the proposed US subsidiary. We received no response.
20.9.2006In a meeting with UNI's General Secretary (Philip Jennings) Tesco's Catherine Glickman (Personnel Services Director) said that the company would not be willing to meet the UFCW prior to the opening of stores. She agreed to raise with US management the possibility of meeting Mr Hansen of the UFCW.
2.11.2006UFCW vice president, Rick lcaza, wrote to Sir Terry Leahy proposing a partnership with Tesco. Tesco referred the letter to Tim Mason, Chief Executive of Tesco USA.
21.11.2006Philip Jennings (UNI) told Catherine Glickman (Tesco) that the company needs to reply within two weeks and that refusing to meet would be a mistake. She reportedly urged "patience".
4.12. 2006Rick Icaza wrote to Tim Mason (Tesco) seeking "partnership".
At a Tesco event, UFCW Local 1442 President, Mike Straeter, asked Tim Mason for a meeting. Mr Mason referred Mr Straeter to the Chief Human Resources Officer, Hugh Cousins. Mr Mason reportedly indicated that a meeting in 2007 would be fine, but not sooner, since stores would not open until June or July 2007.
19.12.2006UFCW President, Joe Hansen, wrote to Sir Terry Leahy proposing to meet him.
20.12.2006Hugh Cousins, on behalf of Tim Mason, replied to Rick !cam's letter: "We do not believe a meeting with you would be appropriate. We must respectfully decline your offer."
20.12.2006Catherine Glickman (Tesco) told Philip Jennings (UNi) that a meeting with the UFCW would be premature. Hugh Cousins is cited as believing there is "not yet an agenda for talks". Mr Jennings again advised that meeting the UFCW is very important.
11.1.2007Sir Terry Leahy replied to Mr Hansen but only to refer his letter to Lucy Neville-Rolfe. Nothing further was heard.
9.2.2007Philip Jennings proposed a follow-up teleconference with Catherine Glickman. Ms Glickman responded on 20.2.2007 that she saw no reason for a follow up.
21.3.2007Philip Jennings e-mailed Hugh Cousins requesting dialogue. Mr Cousins replied that he would like to learn more about the discussions between UNI and Tesco and then "touch base". There has been no further communication on this request.

  Moreover, our experience is mirrored by that of UNI Global Union, as a recent exchange of letters between Philip Jennings, UNI General Secretary, and Ms Neville-

  Rolfe, which we have attached to this supplementary evidence [not printed], clearly Illustrates.

  We entered into this process of dialogue with genuinely positive intent, believing that the partnership approach that Tesco has with Usdaw in the UK would be successfully transplanted to the USA. We still want Tesco to make a success of Fresh & Easy and we remain ready to be partners in that endeavour. It was only after our friendly overtures were rejected that we realised that Tesco had no intention of meeting us as potential partners, and that it was hostile to union representation in Fresh & Easy. Only then, having tried both direct and indirect friendly approaches, did we finally take the decision to raise public awareness of Tesco's approach in the USA, working with community groups and local politicians to raise our concerns. Moreover, we only took the further step of raising awareness in the UK once the stores had opened and evidence emerged of Tesco's union-busting activities.

  Contrary to what Ms Neville-Rolfe told the Joint Committee, we believe that we acted constructively and collaboratively in our approaches to the company, and that our subsequent actions of awareness-raising are a reasonable, though regrettable, response to a company that has demonstrated its opposition to freedom of association.

  I also wish to address the two items upon which Ms Neville-Rolfe has committed to revert to the Committee in writing. I can confirm that UFCW is not permitted to recruit union members in Tesco stores in the USA. Not only has the company forbid us to do so, but it has scripted staff in what they should say in the event that they meet a union representative in the store, telling them to instruct the union representative to leave the premises and then report the matter immediately to their manager.

  On the other point, the issue of whether the company will agree to meet with UFCW, I can assert that the UFCW stands ready to meet Tesco at any moment. All we have ever wanted is a constructive partnership with Tesco, and for the company to abide by its own public policies on employee rights.

  In considering its report and recommendations, we therefore ask the Joint Committee to consider our own modest requests:

    — that Tesco investigates and publicly reports on the complaints made by the UFCW in our evidence to the Joint Committee and on the allegations contained in the UNI reports on Thailand, South Korea and the USA; and

    — and that Tesco ensures that it abides strictly by its public policies on freedom of association in all countries where it operates.

27 July 2009

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