Unite regional officer, Alan Sutherland, gives his report on the successful demonstrations in support of 184 drivers in Doncaster made redundant.
Tesco Metro, Midland Rd, Bedford.
Unite set out its wares at 10.00 Am. This large foot fall store is situated in the heart of the town.
Initially the local manager came out to tell us who owned the public pavement, and puffed out his tattooed chest, so we sent him back into his store and on his way to no further interference. Public interest outside was good, with the union obtaining a number of pledges from people who were dismayed to find out how the employers had behaved and to tweet Tesco and Stobarts over the shabby treatment of its workers.
The approach taken by us was to have a conversation and not merely to drop leaflets onto shoppers, but to initiate a rapport with Tesco customers. Once fully informed, a number of people said they saw Tesco and Stobart in a different light, while Tesco staff themselves said they wanted information about their employer that Tesco would not normally provide.
The feedback from workers in local businesses was also interesting and Unite had a good presence as a union that takes to the streets where people live and campaigns visibly.
Tesco Express, High St, Bedford.
A tightly packed store with very little pavement. Once more, interest from Tesco store employees and public alike.
Some anti-union comments but really all helpful, with good, positive agreement that supermarkets have had it too easy for too long and not had nearly the level of criticism they should do for their lack of ethics. We obtained further pledges to contact both to show the public disapproval of Tesco and Stobart.
There were lengthy discussions with anti-Tesco public and workers suffering from cuts in the NHS and public services who clearly understood the link between big business, managing expectation by reducing wages and living standards, and campaigning against public cuts.
Tesco Express, Ford End Rd, Queens Park, Bedford.
We got to Ford End Road in the afternoon. The neighbourhood of Queens Park is the most diverse in Bedford with the largest Asian ethnic population outside of Luton. The local Mosque had just finished Friday prayer.
By far the most successful and enthusiastic community we were to encounter, where every single citizen of the Queens Park area had a positive view of our demo.
We really did interface well. There was no anti-union, nor anti-worker sentiment. We had the drivers of passing cars even insisting on taking leaflets, and we were very warmly welcomed and encouraged.
One young woman said she was a proud cabin crew member of Unite and just turned around and refused to enter Tesco on the spot! The public in this area have already boycotted Tesco for links to Israel, which have seen, we were told, a 30% reduction in business at the local store.
Pledges from the Asian youth to hound Tesco and Stobart by electronic media, and very articulate conversation with the struggling businesses of the main road who have, in many cases seen a drop in trade since the opening of Tesco Express, all gave us a real lift. One young man even quoted Bob Marley when he was telling us that Unite was campaigning with a just position by saying "Marley once said that he had to keep performing because the evil in the world doesn’t take a day off, so how could the righteous do otherwise?"
Tesco Extra, Dunstable Road, Luton.
We arrived at Tesco Extra in the Dunstable Road, we met with and handed out the leaflets as well as explaining to those who wanted to know more what the purpose behind the demo. Most were quite sympathetic some chose not to take the leaflet but still enquired as to why we were there.
At approximately 11.15am the store manager approached us and asked if we had a letter to show we had authority to be on the premises, I explained that an email had been sent to the company head office by the National Officer informing them of our presence, she continued to ask if we had a letter as without it we were asked to leave the premises. Rather than just stand there and argue our corner we restated our position but would leave as requested so we went the long way around to get to our cars and handed out the leaflet to those coming onto the premises and I am more than satisfied that we got the message across to those who came onto the site that morning.
We obtained pledges from people to make the issue known to a wider group of customers.
All in all, a good piece of campaigning in a worthy cause.