Thursday, 16 February 2012

'Slave labour' at new Tesco hub development in Streatham?

I have today written to both Tesco and Lambeth Council to try and get assurances that the new Tesco in Streatham - part of the multi-million pound Streatham hub development - will not be using ‘slave labour’. I will also try and raise the issue at next week’s public consultation on the Tesco development.

It would be a huge oversight if Lambeth Council failed to get any assurances from Tesco about low-pay and treatment of workers, before they agreed to the development.

Tesco is current emerging from a small media storm following this advert which appeared last week for permanent night shift workers to work in its Bury St Edmunds store in Suffolk (you can see it online here)

As Eoin Clarke says:

“They are advertising for night shift workers in their depot in East Anglia and offering no wage. Unpaid. Slavery. Tesco makes a profit of £15,000 per worker, and yet they cannot see fit to pay these positions. Instead, we the taxpayer will pay the worker £53-67 a week in Job Seeker's Allowance.”

Tesco are now saying:

“This was an error made by Jobcentre Plus. It should be an advert for work experience with a guaranteed interview at the end.”

This isn't much better. And there is form here. In 2008 Tesco was also accused of exploiting workers who are paid an average 16p an hour.

This will be a big issue when the Tesco development opens at the new Streatham Hub. The store is going to be huge, and there are ongoing concerns that Tesco is cutting back on costs and maximising profits at the expense of the community.

There are already huge obscenities which all supermarkets can profit from when it comes to workers. The Department for Work and Pensions line from 2011 hasn't shifted. See for example: 'Government admits Jobcentres set targets to take away benefits' or 'Young jobseekers told to work without pay...' No doubt the welfare reform changes will increase this in the coming years.

This comment by Zoe Williams notes how government subsidises enable corporates (and Tesco is here the example cited again) to increase pay to low pay staff, through tax credits and other benefits rather than paying a fair wage.

For the wider impact of Tesco on local communities, see the Friends of the Earth briefing here.

No comments: